Ethics and governance | Locale Learning

Model social media policy for local councils

by | 24 April, 2022

Social media is now an everyday part of our lives. From the perspective of a local councillor, this represents an opportunity to be more connected and engaged with the local community. It also represents a variety of challenges and risks (which we have written about previously).

From our experience working with councillors, the use of social media is also one of the top governance issues facing many local councils and councillors.

Model social media policy

In response, the Office of Local Government has released a much anticipated final version of the Model Social Media Policy for local councils. The adoption of the policy is optional, although encouraged. The policy is considered best practice guidance for councils and councillors and reflects the recent High Court decision in the Voller case.

Importantly, if adopted by local councils, the policy would apply to the conduct of councillors online. There are a number of specific provisions relating to councillor social media use. These give some guidance to the practicalities of using social media and will require some councillors to modify their social media presence and approach.

Social media policy principles

The policy is based on four principles:Office of Local Government Model Social Media Policy

Private versus official use

Importantly, the model social media policy seeks to draw a clear line between private and official use. This is something that has been a real issue since the Shelley decision a couple of years ago. In this decision, a councillor was found to have committed misconduct due to a post on a Facebook page he administered in a personal capacity.

Under the policy, councillors should maintain a separate social media account for private use. ‘Private use’ is defined by the policy. Critically, if a councillor chooses to identify themselves as a councillor (either directly or indirectly), then this will not be considered “private use”.

Practical guidance for local councillors

Where a social media channel relates to official council matters, councillors must:

  • Moderate their own content
  • Identify themselves as Councillor “First Name and Last Name”
  • Have a profile photo which is a clearly identifiable image of the councillor
  • Use ‘house rules’ for engagement on the social media platform
  • Include a disclaimer that “The views expressed and comments made on this social media platform are my own and not that of the Council”
  • Inform the General Manager of any social media platforms they administer which include related council content

Councillors must also follow the standards of conduct in Part 4 of the policy. Essentially, this reflects existing obligations under the Code of Conduct.

Notably, the policy clarifies that a councillor may explain why they voted on a matter in the way that they did when referring to a council decision. It also clarifies the communication channels in an emergency event.

Mandatory training for councillors

The model policy also requires councillors to undertake training in the use of social media. This includes the appropriate use of social media during an emergency event. To support councillors in this space, we have two options:

Option 1

An online interactive masterclass on social media use. This is ideal for individual councillors who want to sharpen their social media presence and make sure they are acting in accordance with best practice. Feedback from previous attendees:

Thanks so much for what was a very informative session.

Option 2

Tailored workshop for the elected Council on the ethical and effective use of social media. This workshop unpacks our three golden rules and gives councillors practical tools to avoid the potential pitfalls of being online. It can be delivered as a stand alone workshop or as part of Code of Conduct training. Feedback from previous participants includes:

I wish Council did this years ago. It may have stopped a lot of problems and upset.

Brilliant session – thank you for the great advice!

For more information about our workshop, please contact us


T   0421 180 881






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