Do you follow your town's Facebook page? Or the local police department's Twitter feed? Much more thought and caution than you may realize go into these posts and tweets, as officials try to make sure these social media accounts don't cause more harm than good.

Sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

New Jersey has been no stranger to individual public officials causing an uproar through their personal social media pages. But when the page or handle speaks on behalf of the entire town or a whole department, more scrutiny is involved.

Lynn Franco, aide to the mayor of Marlboro Township, is the real person behind the municipality's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds. She's been approved as a contributor to the township's social media presence, sharing emergency road closures with residents or relaying good news such as preservation of open space.

But if anyone else wants to get behind the keyboard or phone, and post, written approval from the mayor is needed, Franco said. The same goes for individual departments; for an account to even be created, mayoral approval is a must.

"We have a social media policy in place that covers any and all social media, and anyone that is speaking with the voice of the township," Franco told New Jersey 101.5.

A similar process is in place in Ocean County. When a department under the general county administration determines it has a need for a Facebook or Instagram page, a request is submitted for approval.

"They would also have to justify why their department needs that type of social media account," said Ocean County Assistant Administrator Michael Fiure. "The administrator would review that, would talk to the IT department, and they'd make a determination to set up an account for that department."

While no costs are involved with setting up or maintaining social media, Fiure said, it's still important to examine whether a department has adequate staffing and time to keep up with the page(s).

The county is in the process of hiring an entry-level employee within the IT department who would be responsible for monitoring all of the social media accounts approved by administration, among other tasks.

The reins aren't held as tight on public employees' personal accounts. But when they go too far, action is taken.

It was revealed this week that a lieutenant with the Elmer Police Department has been suspended following a string of threatening and profane posts on his Twitter account. The officer in question claimed to have been hacked, but screenshots of the since-deleted account show a pattern of vulgar tweets dating back months.

In January, an Atlantic County freeholder was under fire for a pair of seemingly-sexist Facebook posts after national marches in support of women's rights.


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