Do you have an official government social media account? Have you ever wondered if one you’re following is legit?
GSA has built a federal social media registry — a government-wide solution that gives the public a way to verify whether a social media account is official.
It also provides a place for agencies to register their accounts centrally so they don’t have to build a solution within each agency. This tool is now available for agencies to use on HowTo.gov, so they can start entering and editing their data.
Every day, the government uses social media services like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to communicate with the public and provide official services. Through these popular, easy to use, and free services, the government communicates more directly with the public than ever before.
What is it and why are we building it?
The tool allows agencies to register their official social media accounts in a single database. This database will eventually power a Social Media Checker which, once launched, will allow users to verify social media URLs against the database and determine if an account is registered to an official government agency.
The registry will help address three key issues:
- Unlike most government websites which are hosted on .gov or .mil domains, social media sites are hosted on commercial domains. Without the .gov or .mil domain, it’s difficult to tell legitimate government sites from impersonators. Now the public can use the social media registry to validate that a social media account is really managed by the government and is not an impostor.
- There are thousands of social media accounts being used by US government agencies. The Social Media Registry will help manage these accounts across the government and within individual agencies by offering a series of APIs which will allow agencies to get data about their agencies.
- Rather than have every agency develop their own social media registry, GSA has developed a solution that can be used across government. In this way, GSA is helping federal agencies and the government be more cost efficient. By collaborating across agencies, we can deliver a tool that is continuously improved for the benefit of everyone.
GSA has built this registry so that people can trust that they’re engaging with a government agency through social media, and to provide a better picture of federal agencies using social media.
What type of social media accounts are included?
The registry supports 22 of the most widely used social media services today, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It will only track accounts that represent official U.S. government agencies, organizations, or programs.
Government employees will be able to register accounts managed by federal agencies, elected officials (not campaign accounts), members of the President’s Cabinet and heads of agencies.
The registry will not include personal, employee, or other types of social media accounts.
How will it work?
There will be two ways to use the registry:
- Agencies Register: This is hosted on HowTo.gov and allows anyone with a .gov or .mil email address to add an official federal social media account to the registry. When a user adds an account, that person will be able to indicate the managing agency, the language of the account, and add tags as metadata to describe the account. Because anyone with a .gov or .mil email address can add things to the registry, we can “fedsource” information about federally-managed social media accounts.
- Public Verifies: Anyone will be able to visit a public webpage (hosted on USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov), paste in the URL of a social media account (e.g. http://twitter.com/USAgov) and find out if it’s in the federal social media database or not. This will be available by mid-May.
When will it be ready?
The registry is available now for federal agencies to use! Visit the registration interface on HowTo.gov to enter your information: http://www.howto.gov/social-media/social-media-registry/register-accounts
We will share the verification interface hosted on USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov with the public by mid-May.
Can I access the raw data, like via an API?
We know agencies will want to have easy access to data in the registry. There won’t be an interface to browse the contents of the database, but instead we are providing APIs so you can get data out of the registry. We’re doing this to test out the concept of government as a platform and also to heed the credo that “everything should be an API.”
The API allows anyone to get the contents of the registry in JSON or XML and filter the results by agency, tag, or social media platform. For instance, with a single API call, you could get a list of every Facebook account managed by HHS about cancer. We encourage people to experiment with the registry’s API while we determine the best way to build an interface to search or browse the contents of the registry.
You can view the API documentation for the Federal Social Media Registry.