Marshalls government bans use of social media at work sites

MAJURO, 31 AUGUST 2018 (MARIANAS VARIETY) – The Marshall Islands Public Service Commission has banned use of social media for government workers during office hours, a move that some believe will disrupt routine operations of government that now rely largely on social media access.

The social media ban announced earlier this month is actually an effort to enforce a 2012 directive by the Public Service Commission or PSC that was largely ignored.

A memo signed by PSC Chairman Donald Capelle and Commissioners Jiba Kabua and Justina Langidrik said “effective immediately, no one is permitted to link his/her workstation or computer…to access Facebook or other forms of social media during government working hours. Anyone found disobeying this directive will be disciplined.”

The government directive does allow for exemptions to the social media ban during government working hours is for “official office-related tasks and authorized in writing by the head of department.”

Numerous government offices now rely on Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and other social media for routine, day-to-day business. The PSC memo does not exempt certain entities that use the social media as part of their core work programme, including the:

  • Central Adoption Agency within the Ministry of Culture and Internal Affairs, which allows birth mothers to communicate through Facebook with parents living in the U.S. who adopted their children.
  • Marshall Islands Scholarship office, which relies heavily on Facebook to promote scholarship opportunities and as a primary means to communicate with RMI scholarship recipients and students seeking assistance.
  • High level political leaders, including President Hilda Heine and Environment Minister David Paul, frequently use Twitter to announce various developments on key issue or opinions world affairs.
  • Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Authority relies on Facebook posts and Messenger to receive tips about oil spills and other environmental issues in the Marshall Islands.

It’s been noted on social media and within government entities that Marshallese use social media more than email to communicate.

A staff member at Marshall Island Visitors Authority under the Office of Commerce, Investment and Tourism, said they receive most communication from prospective visitors through Facebook.

The 2012 social media ban memo, which this new effort aims to enforce, stated: “This instruction is being issued that effective immediately chat and gossip through the use of face book and playing games on computers during office hours will no longer be allowed in any government office buildings.” In 2012, the PSC said “chatting, gossiping through face book and playing games during normal working hours have become a bad habit constituting to an even worse chronic disease within our public service system delaying our assigned tasks and damaging our daily routines.”

Although the PSC warned of “serious disciplinary actions” to be enforced for offenders, the 2012 instruction was not widely followed.

The ban on accessing social media sites at government offices includes any device, whether government or personal. The new PSC memo specifically references Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Yahoo chat, Google chat and other forms of chat rooms. It also states that use of Skype or other types of conference calling for personal reasons during working house is not permitted in government offices.

PSC instructed heads of departments to “put into place established in-house guidelines and necessary mechanisms to monitor employees from abusing the directive.”

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