This Operational Procedure is issued under the authority of the Commissioner and should be read together with the ACNC Policy Framework which sets out the scope, context and definitions common to our Policy Documents.

Operational Procedure Statement

This Operational Procedure sets out principles to guide staff use of social media at the ACNC.

It includes guidance on how to manage challenging behaviour online and when to escalate an issue. It also includes the steps that the ACNC will take if a staff member behaves inappropriately online.

ACNC staff to be professional at all times

  1. When interacting online ACNC staff should be aware that they are bound by the following, in addition to this operational procedure:

Our staff should familiarise themselves with these policies and guidelines and be aware that even if posting in a personal capacity with enabled privacy settings, comments made online can circulate widely and be difficult to delete.

  1. Be respectful and courteous about the opinions of others online. Never post anything obscene, defamatory, threatening, harassing, discriminatory or hateful about another person or entity.
  1. Take reasonable steps to ensure that any content you publish is accurate. Provide direct links to relevant information online where it exists.

ACNC staff must be open and accountable 

  1. Staff must disclose that they work for the ACNC if commenting in a professional capacity. Be clear about your area of expertise and what your role is.
  1. Staff must not include ACNC or Australian Government logos in postings without specific authorisation.
  1. If speaking or posting in a personal capacity about work-related matters (for example charities, the ACNC, or not-for-profit regulation), you must make it clear that you are posting as an individual and you are not representing the ACNC.
  1. Staff must not speak on behalf of the ACNC unless they are specifically authorised to do so, and then should only comment on topics that fall within their area of responsibility.

Staff to only disclose appropriate information

  1. Staff must only share publicly available information and, if necessary, seek clarification about what information is in the public domain. The 2015/01 ACNC Protected Information Procedure applies to all ACNC staff and provides guidance to staff when handling protected ACNC information and when they can and cannot disclose information.

Staff should protect themselves 

  1. Staff should be aware of potential conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts of interest. They must consider whether connecting with a stakeholder online could give rise to such a conflict. This is particularly important if your role involves decision-making.
  1. Staff should consider which platform is most appropriate to communicate with a stakeholder. If communication relates to your professional relationship with a stakeholder, it is preferable to use official channels such as your ACNC email account. Staff should redirect work-related matters from personal social media accounts to official channels and use their discretion when considering invitations to connect via social media.

Escalation plan for contentious situations on social media

  1. This plan comprises two parts:
  • identifying potentially contentious social media situations, and
  • responding to contentious social media situations.
  1. The ACNC is committed to open and transparent engagement online and encourages authorised staff to participate. However, this engagement can create situations of potential risk to the ACNC’s reputation from ‘troll-like’ posters – that is, people who post purely negative and attacking comments online on one or a range of topics.
  1. It is important to identify such individuals and ensure the right steps are taken to avoid potential risk to the ACNC’s reputation.

Identifying potentially contentious social media situations

  1. A ‘troll-like’ poster generally exhibits these tendencies:
  • frequent posts – which may be lengthy
  • disagreement with multiple other posters
  • disregard for others’ attempts to reconcile or explain their viewpoints
  • attacks on other posters, which may not be blatant enough to contravene ACNC Social Media Terms and Conditions, and
  • unwillingness to ‘let go’ of a topic, long after other posters have abandoned attempts at discourse

Responding to contentious social media situations

  1. The basic social media rule of thumb is ‘don’t feed the trolls’. However, a blanket no-response has the potential to damage the ACNC’s reputation for willingness to engage with its critics.
  1. If you identify a troll or problematic poster, staff should take the following steps:
  • notify the Education and Public Affairs team manager or director and explain your concerns
  • respond once or twice, politely answering the individual’s concerns using only information that is already publicly available, such as resources on the ACNC website or the ACNC Act
  • monitor the discussion to see whether the poster is stifling debate with too many posts
  • draft a response asking the poster to desist and show it to the manager or director of Education and Public Affairs for approval before publishing
  • do not respond to further posts or messages
  • start a new discussion on a topic to allow the conversation with other community members to resume, and
  • make a record of the troll-like poster’s name, associations and a link to the discussion thread in which they were most active and email it to media@acnc.gov.au for the Education and Public Affairs team's records. 

Inappropriate behaviour by staff online

  1. Inappropriate behaviour by staff online may come to the attention of the ACNC via various channels, including a complaint from an external party or the ACNC's own participation online and moderation of its forums.
  1. In the event that a staff member's conduct online has drawn attention, the incident will be reviewed by the staff member's manager in conjunction with the human resources manager. The human resources manager will advise the director of Education and Public Affairs if an incident requires an ACNC response.
  1. The incident will be managed in line with ATO Procedures for determining whether an employee has breached the APS Code of Conduct and imposition of sanction available on myATO.

References

ACNC Corporate Policy: 2013/02 Use of Social Media
ATO CEI (2014/01/04) Social Media available on myATO
ATO CEI (2014/04/05) Proper use of Information Technology Equipment available on myATO
APS Values and Code of Conduct 
ACNC Operational Procedure: 2015/01 ACNC Protected Information Procedure
ATO Procedure for determining whether an employee has breached the APS Code of Conduct and imposition of sanction available on myATO

Version Control

VersionDate of effectBrief summary of changes
Version 1 - Initial procedure03/06/2013Initial OP endorsed by Assistant Commissioner Charity Services on 03/06/2013
Version 2 - Amendment23/07/2019Update policy to reflect current practice and removed obsolete references.