Chapter 3. What "Official Capacity" Means
According to the Office of Ethics, you have two personas: an "official" you and a "personal" you. The “official” you represents and speaks on behalf of GSA. The “personal” you represents your own views and opinions. The difference between official capacity and personal capacity of social media is this:
- Personal Capacity: You can do anything that's not illegal and not prohibited by regulation or GSA policy.
- Official Capacity: You can only do what you are authorized to do by your agency.
This Social Media Navigator provides guidance on using social media tools in an official capacity. So, let's talk about "official" capacity: in other words, when you are communicating in your official capacity using social media. These types of communications may typically occur in two areas:
- Communication on GSA's official sites (e.g., our YouTube, Facebook or Twitter accounts).
- Communication on someone else's site (e.g., responding to a posting on another web site).
What Official Capacity Means
You know you are communicating in your official capacity when your supervisor assigns this activity as part of your official duties. Your supervisor should clearly explain the assignment and what social media tool or tools you can use. This is different from your personal capacity. The important point is that when you communicate in an official capacity you are communicating on behalf of GSA, just as if you were standing at a podium at a conference, communicating the agency's views to everyone.
What Personal Capacity Means
Personal capacity means you are acting on your own time and representing yourself and not the agency or the US Government. Obviously, you're allowed to have personal websites, Facebook accounts, blogs and the like outside of work. However, it's important to remember that when you use your social media tools personally, you're not speaking for GSA, and it shouldn't appear to others as though you're speaking for GSA. Remember, even in your personal capacity, your use of social media may still be subject to the Hatch Act. If you have any questions, check with the Office of Special Counsel to ensure your use of social media on personal time is still in line.