Updated: Jul 13, 2021
Linn County Sheriff's Office Facebook page's cover photo. (Screen capture, Linn County Journal)
MOUND CITY – While you may want to hide an embarrassing post on your Facebook page from your Aunt Edna or block the guy from New Hampshire who has decided to troll your posts with obscenities, the Linn County Sheriff’s Office – and other county Facebook pages – have the opposite problem.
The sheriff office wants to keep those posts, no matter how embarrassing or distasteful as they may be.
“Once that material is on our website, it’s ours,” said Sheriff Kevin Friend.
During the Linn County Commission meeting on Monday, June 21, Friend told commissioners that his main concern wasn’t what was posted on the site; it was failure of his department to have a long-term record of the posts there. And how much it could cost the county government.
Kansas statue requires counties to keep documents as long as 20 years, and those documents include such online postings as Facebook. And that includes everything that is posted to the counties sites, even if the person who posted there decided to delete their posts.
While Friend said he blocks vulgarity – “I don’t want children and grandmothers to see it” – he was more concerned that his department and the county could run afoul of the state’s Open Records statute.
If someone asked for the content of the Facebook page under the statute, and it did not contain all posts, his department and the county could be sued, he said.
He cited the case of Scott City, Kan., that was unable to supply all Facebook posts following an open-records request. That city is looking at possibly paying a $75,000 judgment in a lawsuit.
“It’s a way to sue government and get some money,” the sheriff said.
Friend said that it was nearly impossible to do something like take photos of the posts because they change all the time. However, he said that there are companies like ArchiveSocial, a Durham, N.C. company that already provides the service for Miami County.
The cost for ArchiveSocial's standard plan, which covers an unlimited number of social accounts like Facebook as well as data storage, is about $4,800 annually.
County Clerk David Lamb told commissioner that he and Chris Martin, information technology director for the county, had explored use of ArchiveSocial. “They captured our information for a while, but we didn’t contract with them,” he said.
Martin said that it would also be almost impossible for his office to collect that kind of data without going to a service like ArchiveSocial.
Friend urged commissioners to consider hiring a service.
“I think if we don’t do it, we will suffer some day,” he said. “I think Scott City is going to suffer to the tune of $75,000.”
While commissioners did not commit to expense, Chair Rick James asked Martin to take the lead in further exploring the necessity of capturing that data and the costs involved.