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Massachusetts Public Record Laws

Website & Social Media Archiving for Massachusetts

Do you represent a Massachusetts State Government Agency and wondering how you should archive all your web and social media content? Are you trying to determine what you need to do both from a legal and a technical point of view? Here’s a guide to the different Laws and processes you should follow.

What Laws govern Records Management in Massachusetts State?

The Massachusetts Public Records Law sets out the minimum standards of open and public record retention, preservation and production for the state of Massachusetts. Every record that is made or received by a government entity or employee is presumed to be a public record.

Do Massachusetts State Records Laws include Website and Social Media content?

Yes they do, as the statutory definition of “public records” does not distinguish between paper records and ESI, and applies to all government records generated, received or maintained electronically, including computer records and social media content, “regardless of physical form or characteristics“. Records created or posted to websites, are subject to the same electronic records requirements as records created or maintained non-web-based electronic record keeping system.

What agencies are subject to these laws?

These laws are applicable to any documents made or received by any officer or employee of any agency, division or authority of the commonwealth, or of any political subdivision thereof, or of any authority established to serve a public purpose, which receives or expends public funds in its duties and functions.

What is my agency required to do in line with these regulations?

Agencies must manage and maintain all records subject to the relevant laws and aim to minimize unauthorized addition, modification, alteration, erasure, or deletion of data, electronic records, and documents.

It is recommended that to comply with current minimum documentation requirements, entities include a narrative description of the system comprised of:

including a description of the form of the data; and, any other technical information needed to read or process the records.

Archiving of technical details of the website, and periodic data and screen snapshots of web pages and do a review of third party social media service provider’s terms of service for its records preservation practices in compliance with the Statewide Records Retention Schedule.

In which form do I need to archive my records?

Subject to G. L. c. 110G, the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act,  Federal law (where the validity of the record is not in question), electronic records should be admissible to the same extent as paper records. Records custodians should be familiar with the requirements of state and federal law regarding ediscovery and should ensure that electronic records subject to discovery are captured and preserved in accordance with such requirements.

Can I use a printout of my website as an official record?

No you cannot, Pursuant to G. L. c. 233, § 79E, electronic records may be admitted in evidence for use in court proceedings if trustworthiness is established by thoroughly documenting the record keeping system’s operation.

How can we transfer website archives made with PageFreezer to the Massachusetts State Digital Archives?

PageFreezer exports all data on request – in compliance with  G.L.c.4, § 7(26) – in the original file format including the required metadata. This data set can be transferred by FTP or other means to the Massachusetts State Digital Archives.

If you have questions about any of this or about how to actually implement effective Online Public Records management start a free trial, schedule a demo or contact us directly.

Additional information:

Massachusetts is now ranked among the worst in the nation when it comes to government transparency and open records, with the Center for Public Integrity giving Massachusetts an “F” grade in its most recent 50-state survey of public access to information. In line with the city of Boston’s Social Media Policy, all comments and messages placed on social media are public record, of which they reserve the right to moderate.

How can PageFreezer help our agency?

PageFreezer has been working on our Archiving technology and processes since 2006 – We know how to properly archive Web Sites, Blogs and Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram. Just ask any of our over 500 clients including US Cities, Counties and other Government Agencies as well as Multinationals, Financial Service Firms, Healthcare Providers …

Our clients know our technology is secure, reliable and authenticated. More importantly they appreciate the ease-of-use.

That’s why our complex technology is simple to use – The archiving is automatic and retrieval is a matter of signing in, going to the date you want, and browsing your site just like you did when the content was just published.

If you have questions about any of this or about how to actually implement effective Online Public Records management start a free trail, schedule a demo or contact us directly.


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Massachusetts Public Records Law – Massachusetts Public Records Law (G.L.c.4, § 7(26)) covers government records of all physical forms, and aims to provide information for the common good of the public.

General NARA Social Media Guidelines for Federal Bodies NARA bulletins provide fundamental guidance to Federal agencies to determine the most appropriate ways to incorporate recordkeeping requirements into their business processes in compliance with the Federal Records Act.

Open Government Guidelines – These guidelines comprehensively outline open government law and practices in the United State to fully inform citizens of their federal and state rights of access to information.

Additional Resources:

Electronic Records Guidelines – This report from the Secretary of the Commonwealth provides commentary on all electronic records practices, cautions and guidelines subject to MA Public Records Law.

City of Boston Social Media Policy – Outlines the standards and guidelines of Boston’s highly interactive social media practices under the governing law, and notes that all social media comments and messages exchanged with the City of Boston are public record.

Guide to Massachusetts Public Records Law – This guide informs the relevant public of the State mandate to provide for an open government, a requester’s right to access public records, as well as a government records custodian’s duty to respond to those requests.


Globe Newspaper Co. v. Boston Retirement Board; The Massachusetts Public Records Law is patterned after the federal Freedom of Information Act “in a general way”.

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