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Preserving Social Media Data for Federal Records Act Compliance

Ensuring that federal agencies comply with The Federal Records Act, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) acts as the nation’s record-keeper to ensure official federal records are preserved for increased public access.

NARA sets rules and regulations on how (and in what formats) records need to be collected, stored and archived by federal agencies. Failure to comply with NARA’s expectations can result in non-compliance fines and further penalties. Revisiting what constitutes as official records, NARA defines records as "all recorded information, regardless of form or characteristics, made or received by a Federal agency under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency" -per NARA's 44 USC 3301

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To further stress the fact that content presented through websites and social media accounts are deemed official records, NARA has recently revised some language in its guidelines on Universal Electronic Records Requirements.

Below are a few expectations drawn from these guidelines regarding the capture and transfer of website and social media records.

  • Agencies must manage all electronic records including all recorded information, regardless of form or characteristics.This applies to both websites & social media. 

  • Federal agencies must now collect and preserve all social media content within 20 days of it being posted.
  • Records of current and former employees must be managed in a manner that supports searching in response to information requests, including FOIA and agency business needs.

  • Preservation requirements demand that metadata is collected and intact within the preserved content.

  • WARC and ARC formats are now the only two acceptable formats when transferring records to NARA.

  • All component parts of web content records must be transferred to NARA in a manner that maintains all of the original links, functionality, and data integrity.

  • Agencies must have the ability to generate reports demonstrating effective controls and compliance.

  • Any actions changing the level of access, altering the record, or changing the location of the record must be documented and tracked into an audit log.

  • Agencies must control any proposed deletion of records pursuant to existing records schedules.

View the full guidance table here to review your compliance with these updates. Should you find gaps in your compliance, you may need to make corrections to the program or system you have in place.

When reviewing a list of potential solutions for NARA compliance, we recommend considering the following capabilities:

Collection of social media content in real-time

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Social media archives are superior to screenshots or CMS backups in that they can provide a complete history of social media conversations for compliance. Some solutions capture social media in real-time, and some in near-real time. Going with a provider that can archive your social media activity in real-time ensures there are no gaps in your archives.

Capture of metadata 
Metadata that is provided by the social media API’s like IP address, post date and time verifies your content for data authenticity and integrity should it ever be needed as part of an audit or legal case. NARA makes the capture of metadata a must.
Delivery of WARC exports

WARC format is a specific file format and one of the only two that are accepted by NARA. Archives may be of limited use in the case of an audit or legal case if they cannot be exported in the required format. Learn more about the importance of WARC formats here.

Audit log features 

Since several employees might play a role in your digital record-keeping, audit logs are another necessity in a practical solution.

Search functionality

Finding what you need and when you need it makes compliance that much easier should you need to turn around data for NARA, or any citizen requesting your data. Ensure your chosen solution simplifies the process of searching for what you need.

Retention schedules 

Retention schedules determine just how long you should hold your data for. Ensuring you are using a solution that can hold your data for a specified retention schedule and purge this data after will put you at ease. 

PageFreezer is General Services Administration (GSA) certified making us a safe and reliable choice of many federal governments, including NARA themselves.

Check out our list of features, or contact us to schedule a personalized demo and explore how PageFreezer can help you meet NARA, FOIA and Federal Records Act expectations.

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