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Rhode Island Public Record Laws

Website & Social Media Archiving for Rhode Island State Agencies

Do you represent a Rhode Island 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.

“The public’s right to access to public records and the individual’s right to dignity and privacy are both recognized to be principles of the utmost importance in a free society” – § 38-2-1
What Laws govern Records Management in the State of Rhode Island?

Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act (APRA) (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 38-2-1 et seq.,) with the additional provisions of Rhode Island Open Meetings Act (OMA) (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-1 et seq.,) govern Open Records in the state of Rhode Island.

Do Rhode Island’s Records Laws include Website and Social Media content?

Yes, they do. NARA state that there is a “[P]ublic expectation that all web content is both permanently valuable and accessible” – and so social media and web records are subject to these standards as well as the relevant metadata being pertinent to these laws.

A “public record” is broadly defined in APRA to include all materials generated or collected by public entities in connection with the conduct of official business. That includes written documents, photographs, tape records, and other records in electronic format, including website and social media content. With one important exception, the law does not require public bodies to create a document in a form not maintained by the agency. However, if the requested records are in electronic format and the agency would not be unduly burdened in reorganizing the data as requested, it is obligated to provide the information.

Although electronic records are not specifically addressed in the Rhode Island’s Open Record Law, “public record” is defined, in part, to be any material “regardless of physical form or characteristics” and so digital content relating to official business is a designated public record. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-2(4) (i).

What agencies are subject to these laws?

“Agency” or “public body” subject to APRA means “any executive, legislative, judicial, regulatory, or administrative body of the state … including, but not limited to, any department, division, agency, commission, board, office, bureau, authority … or other agency of Rhode Island state or local government which exercises governmental functions … or any other public or private agency, person, partnership, corporation, or business entity acting on behalf of and/or in place of any public agency.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-2(1).

The law also applies to various so-called “quasi -public” agencies. Judicial bodies are subject to APRA only in respect to their administrative functions.

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

Your agency website must be retained in electronic format and remain usable, searchable, retrievable and authentic for the length of the designated retention period as established by the agency and/ or form of record in question and content placed on state agency social media should be moderated by an authorized, trained staff member.

For many years, APRA had a broadly – worded exemption that prevented disclosure of most records identifiable to a particular individual. Under a 2012 amendment to the law, however, those types of records are now exempt only if their disclosure would constitute “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

In which form do I need to archive my records?

Websites must be retained in their original format: HTML, CSS, PDF etc.

Any public body which maintains its records in a computer storage system shall provide a reasonable format of any data properly identified. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(e).

How can we transfer website archives made with PageFreezer to the Rhode Island Digital Archives?

PageFreezer exports all data on request in the original file format including the required metadata. This data set can be transferred by FTP or by other means to the Rhode Island State or Agency Digital Archives.

Fact: Rhode Island enacted its public disclosure law, the Access to Public Records Act (APRA), in 1979, making it the second-to-last state in the nation to adopt a law guaranteeing that most government documents, with narrow exceptions, are available for copying and inspection.

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 trial, schedule a demo or contact us directly.

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