by Melissa Brunner
A lot is being made of the Interim Topeka City Manager Dan Stanley announcing an update to the city's policy of accessing social media sites, like Facebook and YouTube, on city computers. He says it was prompted by reports workers were abusing access to YouTube. The news release went on to explain that upgrades in blocking software made it possible to now enact stricter controls on such sites, while still allowing access to work-related videos on YouTube (a training video, for example).
I asked for a clarification whether this meant Facebook and Twitter were now blocked, too, and was told that those two sites already were blocked, so evidently that was nothing new. Still, the attention given to the news release has prompted an outcry as to how the City could block its workers from social media. It could be a viable tool, they say, for communicating with the public they serve. Why not show more trust in the workers, they go on, and, instead, better monitor for abuse of the privilege.
The City of Topeka isn't alone in blocking access to social media. USD 501, for example, told us it blocks Facebook on district computers when we inquired on their policy in the wake of Missouri's law regarding teacher/student communication on Facebook. I also know people whose job it is to update the Facebook page for their organization, even though their own employees aren't allowed to view it from the workplace.
Our workplace is the polar opposite. Social media use isn't only allowed, it's also encouraged as a way to get our product (i.e. news updates, headlines, pictures and videos) to our customers (i.e. our viewers) in the most timely manner available (i.e. instantly!). However, I would bet there've been occasions people have updated personal Facebook pages and checked out the latest talking dog video on YouTube. ((Of course, our approach to interacting with viewers and alerting them to fun trends would make these work-related, too!)).
On which side of the argument do you fall? On the one hand, we don't want workers whose salaries we as taxpayers are funding to be wasting their time surfing the web. On the other, sites like Facebook and Twitter have become such a part of how we as a society communicate that it seems counterintuitive to cut them off. Share your thoughts here or let me know on Facebook - I'll be keeping an eye on my page!