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Washington State Public Record Laws

Website & Social Media Archiving for Washington State Agencies

Do you represent a Washington 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 Washington State?

State Public Records Act Wash. Rev. Code § 42.56 et seq. governs Open Records in Washington State, whilst the “Preservation of Electronic Public Records Law”, operates subject to the provisions of Chapters 40.14 and 42.56  of the Public Records Act, protecting digital and electronic records.

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

Yes they do, and the relevant metadata is also pertinent to these laws. Agency websites are bound by the same provisions, preservation and destruction schedules as paper documents as set forth in chapter 40.14 RCW and 434-635.

The Public Records Act states; “Public record” includes any writing containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics. (RCW 42.56.010)

The “Preservation of Electronic Public Records” state law is also very specific on this, stating:  “All state and local government agencies must retain all web content in accordance with the  approved retention schedules.” (434-662-140 WAC).

NARA also state that that 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.

What agencies are subject to these laws?

Washington Public Records Laws provide for the preservation and production of public records by the relevant agencies, and regulated access for the public to these records, regardless of physical form. Agency means all state and local agencies, including all state and local offices, commissions, boards, or other public agencies thereof.

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

Each state agency shall separately state and currently publish in the Washington Administrative Code and each local agency shall prominently display and make available for inspection and copying at the central office of such local agency, for guidance of the public:

Your agency website must be retained in electronic format and remain usable, searchable, retrievable and authentic for the length of the designated retention period (434-662-040 WAC).

In which form do I need to archive my records?

Websites must be retained in their original format: HTML, CSS, PDF etc. (434-662-050 WAC).

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

No, unless approved by the applicable records committee (434-662-040 WAC), a mere printout will not suffice.

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

PageFreezer exports all data on request – in compliance with Chapter 434-662 WAC – in the original file format including the required metadata. This data set can be transferred by FTP or by other means to the Washington State or Agency Digital Archives.

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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Washington State Public Records Law – Chapter 40.14 RCW; Preservation and Destruction of Public Records.

Social Media Best Practices Guidelines and Best Practices for Social Media Use in Washington State

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:

Seattle Social Media Policy: The City of Seattle has an overriding interest and expectation in deciding what is “spoken” on behalf of the City on social media sites. This policy establishes guidelines for the use of social media.

City of Olympia Social Media Policy and Records Retention: This document provides guidelines information and simplified breakdown of social media standards in Olympia.


O’Neill v. City of Shoreline: In this landmark case from 2010, Washington Supreme Court held that metadata is also subject to the terms of the State Public Records Act and must be disclosed upon request.

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