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Wisconsin Public Record Laws

Website & Social Media Archiving for Wisconsin State Agencies

Do you represent a Wisconsin 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 the State of Wisconsin?

Wisconsin Statutes 19.31-19.39 govern social media and open records in the State of Wisconsin.

Case Law: State ex rel. Milwaukee Police Ass’n v. Jones [2000] ,“As technology advances and computer systems are refined, it would be sadly ironic if courts could disable Wisconsin’s open records law by limiting its reach.”
Do Wisconsin State Records Laws include Website and Social Media content?

Yes they do. NARA 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.

In Wisconsin legislation, the definition of “record” includes handwritten, typed, or printed documents and a provision on electronic records and communications. In terms of records created in electronic format, information regarding government business kept or received by an elected official on a website, for example “Making Salem Better,” constitutes a record. If records are created in connection with official business, specifically in regards to electronically stored information, this constitutes “information”. The substance, not the format, controls whether it is a record or not. (Youmans, 28 Wis. 2d at 679, 137 N.W.2d at 473). This includes social media content created for, by or on behalf of authorities (such as Facebook and Twitter) in relation to government business.

This includes not only currently “live” content, but also past content. (Wisconsin Stat. § 16.61). If an authority (including its individual employees) makes use of social media, the authority should adopt procedures to retain and preserve all such records consistent with Wis. Stat. § 16.61 (state authorities), Wis. Stat. § 19.21 (local authorities), and applicable records disposition authorizations.

What agencies are subject to these laws?

“Authority” is defined in § 19.32(1) and includes any of a list of public bodies in possession of a records; such as a “state or local office, elective official, agency, board, commission, committee, council, department ….created by the constitution or by any law, ordinance, rule or order… a university police department under s. 175.42; or a formally constituted subunit of any of the foregoing.”

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

A relevant agency must provide standards and guidelines on the archiving and retention of public records, opinions on various matters regarding social media record provisions, monitor content and ensure adherence with their policy including the proper preservation of records. Inappropriate use may result in the removal of the Department/Division page or account from these social media sites.

In which form do I need to archive my records?

Agencies must make available for inspection and copying all government related information constituting a record – even that contained on a limited access website used by an elected official to gather and provide information about official business. (OAG I-06-09, at 3-4.)

How can we transfer website archives made with PageFreezer to the Wisconsin State 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 Wisconsin State or Agency Digital Archives.

Case Law: State ex rel. Gehl v. Connors 2007 WI App 238, 1, 742 N.W.2d 530; WIREdata, Inc. v. Vill. of Sussex, 2007 WI App 22, 64, 298 Wis. 2d 743, 729 N.W.2d 757 In these instances, it was found that providing a copy of electronic documents merely in PDF version was insufficient to comply with a records request. The electronic data in its original form, including secondary electronic records, was “as much a part of the public record as if it were written on paper property cards and organized and stored in a file cabinet”.
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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Links:

Wisconsin Public Records Law
City of Janesvilles Social Media policy