R 262043Z MAY 15




AMPN/Reference (a) is the United States (U.S.) Office of Government Ethics 
(OGE) Standards of Conduct as Applied to Personal Social Media Use.//
POC/Ms. Brooke Zimmerman/CIV/OPNAV N2N6BC4/TEL:  (571)256-8521/TEL:
DSN:  260-8521/E-MAIL:

RMKS/1.  Recently the U.S. OGE published reference (a), a legal advisory on 
Standards of Conduct as applied to personal social media use.  This NAVADMIN 
replicates subject advisory in its entirety.

2.  Scope and Applicability.  This message applies to all Navy military, 
civilian, and contractor staff.

3.  Discussion
    a.  Use of social media has become prevalent among Federal executive 
branch employees and agencies.  The U.S. OGE is aware that agency ethics 
officials have an interest in understanding how the Standards of Ethical 
Conduct for Executive Branch Employees, 5 C.F.R. part 2635, apply to the use 
of social media.  This interest is reflected in the increased volume of 
questions that OGE receives from various agencies seeking advice in this 
        (1) As an initial matter, the Standards of Conduct do not prohibit 
executive branch employees from establishing and maintaining personal social 
media accounts.  As in any other context, however, employees must ensure that 
their social media activities comply with the Standards of Conduct and other 
applicable laws, including agency supplemental regulations and agency-
specific policies.  To assist employees and agency ethics officials in this 
endeavor, OGE is providing the following guidance regarding issues that 
agency ethics officials have frequently raised concerning employees’ 
obligations under the Standards of Conduct when using social media.
    b.  Use of Government Time and Property
        (1) When employees are on-duty, the Standards of Conduct require that 
they use official time in an honest effort to perform official duties.  See 5 
C.F.R. * 2635.705.  As a general matter, this requirement limits the extent 
to which employees may access and use their personal social media accounts 
while on duty.  The Standards of Conduct also require employees to protect 
and conserve government property and to use government property only to 
perform official duties, unless they are authorized to use government 
property for other purposes.  See 5 C.F.R. *2635.704.  For example, under the 
Standards of Conduct, a supervisor may not order, or even ask, a subordinate 
to work on the supervisor*s personal social media account.  Coercing or 
inducing a subordinate to maintain the supervisor*s personal account would 
amount to a misuse of position and, if done on official time, a misuse of 
official time.  The same would be true if the supervisor were to have a 
subordinate create content for the supervisor*s personal account, even if the 
subordinate were not involved in uploading the content to that account.
        (2) In cases where agencies have established policies permitting 
limited personal use of government resources by their employees, those 
policies control what constitutes an authorized use of government resources 
(See OGE Informal Advisory Opinion 97 x 3).  In some cases, such *limited 
use* policies may authorize employees to access their personal social media 
accounts while on duty.
    c.  Reference to Government Title of Position & Appearance of Official 
        (1) A question that frequently arises is the extent to which 
employees may reference their official titles on their personal social media 
accounts.  In general, the Standards of Conduct prohibit employees from using 
their official titles, positions, or any authority associated with their 
public offices for private gain.  The Standards of Conduct also require that 
employees avoid using their titles or positions in any manner that would 
create an appearance that the government sanctions or endorses their 
activities or those of another.
        (2) Employees use of personal social media ordinarily will not create 
the impermissible appearance of government sanction or endorsement which 
would be prohibited under ** 2635.702(b).  For example, an employee does not 
create the appearance of government sanction merely by identifying his or her 
official title or position in an area of personal social media account 
designated for biographical information.  See OGE Legal Advisory LA-14-08; 
OGE Informal Advisory Opinion 10 x 1.
        (3) In evaluating whether a reference to an employee’s official title 
or position on social media violates the Standards of Conduct, the agency 
ethics official must consider the totality of the circumstances to determine 
whether a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts would 
conclude that the government sanctions or endorses the communication.  See 5 
C.F.R. ** 2635.702(b); 2635.807(b); OGE Legal Advisory LA-14-08; OGE Informal 
Advisory Opinion 10 x 1.  Relevant factors for agency ethics officials to 
consider in making the determination include:
            (a) Whether the employee states that he or she is acting on 
behalf of the government;
            (b) Whether the employee refers to his or her connection to the 
government as support for the employee’s statements;
            (c) Whether the employee prominently features his or her agency*s 
name, seal, uniform, or similar items on the employee’s social media account 
or in connection with specific social media activities;
            (d) Whether the employee refers to his or her government 
employment, title, or position in areas other than those designated for 
biographical information;
            (e) Whether the employee holds a highly visible position in the 
government, such as a senior or political position, or is authorized to speak 
for the government as part of the employee’s official duties;
            (f) Whether other circumstances would lead a reasonable person to 
conclude that the government sanctions or endorses the employees’ social 
media activities; or
            (g) Whether other circumstances would lead a reasonable person to 
conclude that the government does not sanction or endorse the employees’ 
social media activities.
        (4) Ordinarily, an employee is not required to post a disclaimer 
disavowing government sanction or endorsement on the employee’s personal 
social media account.  In cases where confusion or doubt is likely to arise 
regarding the personal nature of social media activities, employees are 
encouraged to include a disclaimer clarifying that their social media 
communications reflect only their personal views and do not necessarily 
represent the views of their agency or the United States.  A clear and 
conspicuous disclaimer will usually be sufficient to dispel any confusion 
that arises.  See OGE Legal Advisory LA-14-08.
    d.  Recommending and Endorsing Others on Social Media
        (1) Social media networks, particularly those focused on job seeking, 
sometimes allow users to recommend or endorse the skills of other users.  The 
Standards of Conduct permit employees to use social media to make such 
recommendations or endorsements in their personal capacity.  It is not a 
misuse of position for employees to provide such endorsements merely because 
they have provided their official titles or positions in areas of their 
personal social media accounts that are designated for biographical 
        (2) OGE is aware that at least one social media service automatically 
adds a user*s name, title, and employer to any recommendation that the user 
posts regarding a job seeker.  In such case where title and employer name are 
added automatically, OGE does not consider a recommendation to constitute a 
misuse of position because the recommendation is readily understood by users 
of the social media service to be personal, rather than official, in nature.  
An employee should not, however, affirmatively choose to include a reference 
to the employee’s title, position, or employer in a recommendation, except 
where 5 C.F.R. * 2635.702(b) expressly permits such references.
    e.  Seeking Employment Through Social Media
        (1) The basic provisions governing seeking employment are set out in 
subpart F of the Standards of Conduct.  For these purposes *seeking 
employment* includes not only the kind of bilateral employment negotiations 
that would implicate 18 U.S.C. * 208, but also certain unilateral expressions 
of interest in employment by the employee.  Specifically, in addition to 
actual negotiations, as described in section 2635.603(b)(1)(i), seeking 
employment also includes unsolicited communications by the employee regarding 
possible employment, as described in section 2635.603(b)(1)(ii), and any 
response by the employee, other than rejection, to an unsolicited overture 
from a prospective employer, as described in section 2635.603(b)(1)(iii).  
See OGE Informal Advisory Opinion 4 x 13.
        (2) Employees who are seeking or negotiating for employment through 
social media must comply with the applicable disqualification requirements of 
5 C.F.R. * 2635.601, et seq., 18 U.S.C. * 208, and any additional 
requirements found in agency supplemental regulations.  Public financial 
disclosure filers who are negotiating or have an arrangement concerning 
future employment or compensation also must comply with the notification
requirements found in section 17 of the Stop Trading on Congressional 
Knowledge Act of 2012.  See 5 U.S.C. app. *101, note; OGE Legal Advisories 
LA-13-06 and LA-12-01.
        (3) An employee is not considered seeking employment with any person 
or organization merely because the employee has posted a resume or similar 
summary of professional experience to the employee’s personal social media 
account.  Likewise, an employee is not considered to be seeking employment 
merely because a person or organization has viewed the employee’s resume on 
that social media account or has sent an unsolicited message, including one 
containing a job offer, to the employee.  An employee who receives an 
unsolicited message or job offer is seeking employment with the sender only 
if the employee responds to the message and the employee’s response is 
anything other than a rejection.  See 5 C.F.R. * 2635.603.
        (4) An employee will be considered seeking employment with a person 
or an organization if the employee contacts that person or organization 
concerning future employment.  In the age of social media, there are a 
multitude of ways that an employee might contact a prospective employer and 
thereby trigger the seeking employment rules.  For example, an employee would 
trigger the seeking employment rules by sending a message directly to the 
organization, uploading a resume or application to the prospective employer*s 
social media account for recruiting employees, or otherwise targeting the 
organization through a social media communication.
    f.  Disclosing Nonpublic Information
        (1) The Standards of Conduct prohibit employees from disclosing 
nonpublic information to further their private interests or the private 
interests of others.  See 5 C.F.R. * 2635.703.  This prohibition applies 
without regard to the medium used for the unauthorized disclosure.  In 
addition to the Standards of Conduct, other statutes and regulations prohibit 
the disclosure of specific categories of nonpublic information, such as 
classified or confidential information.  Employees must follow the rules 
regarding the disclosure of nonpublic information found in the Standards of 
Conduct and all other applicable rules when using social media.  The 
Standards of Conduct generally do not prevent employees from discussing or 
sharing government information that is publicly available.  Employees may 
not, however, accept compensation for statements or communications made over 
social media that relate to their official duties.  See 5 C.F.R. ** 
2635.807(a); 2635.703.
    g.  Personal Fundraising
        (1) Employees may use personal social media accounts to fundraise for 
nonprofit charitable organizations in a personal capacity, but they must 
comply with 5 C.F.R. * 2635.808, the section of the Standards of Conduct that 
covers fundraising.  As a general rule, fundraising solicitations over social 
media are permissible as long as the employee does not *personally solicit* 
funds from a subordinate or a known prohibited source.  See 5 C.F.R. * 
        (2) Fundraising requests over social media are potentially visible to 
a wide audience of followers and connections.  An employee who posts or 
publishes a general fundraising announcement or request over social media has 
not *personally solicited* any prohibited source or subordinate merely 
because the employee is connected with the prohibited source or subordinate 
through the social media network.  The same is true even if the prohibited 
source or subordinate views, comments on, or responds to the post.  However, 
an employee may not respond to inquiries posted by prohibited sources or 
subordinates in reference to the fundraising request.  Furthermore, an 
employee may not specifically reference, link to, or otherwise target a 
subordinate or known prohibited source when fundraising over social media.  
An employee doing so will be considered to have *personally solicited* that 
person in violation of 5 C.F.R. *2635.808(c)(1).  See OGE Informal Advisory 
Opinion 93 x 19; OGE Informal Advisory Opinion 93 x 8.
        (3) Additionally, employees may not use their official titles, 
positions, or authority associated with their positions to further 
fundraising efforts.  See 5 C.F.R. * 2635.808(c)(2); OGE Informal Advisory 
Opinion 96 x 2.  Employees are not considered to have used their official 
titles, positions, or authority associated with their positions to further 
fundraising efforts merely because they have provided this information in 
areas of their personal social media accounts designated for biographical 
    h.  Official Social Media Accounts
        (1) Many Federal agencies maintain one or more official social media 
accounts for use in conducting official business.  Subject to applicable 
legal authorities, each agency determines the purposes for which its official 
accounts may be used.  See OGE Informal Advisory Opinions 93 x 6 and 93 x 24.  
When employees use these official accounts, they must do so in accordance 
with applicable agency directives, regulations, and policies.  See 5 C.F.R. * 
2635.704(a); OGE Informal Advisory Opinion 97 x 3.  Put simply, official 
accounts are for official purposes.
        (2) OGE encourages agencies to adopt policies indicating which 
employees are authorized to access official accounts and defining the 
authorized uses for those accounts.  Agency officials responsible for social 
media accounts may wish to visit the General Services Administration*s online 
Federal Social Media Community of Practice and Social Media Registry at
    i.  Additional Information
        (1) In light of the ever evolving nature of social media, the 
foregoing advice is not intended to be comprehensive.  OGE expects to issue 
additional guidance in the future addressing questions outside the scope of 
this Legal Advisory.  Designated Agency Ethics Officials with questions 
regarding the application of the Standards of Conduct to social media may 
contact their assigned OGE Desk Officers.

4.  This NAVADMIN will remain in effect until cancelled or superseded.

5.  Released by Vice Admiral Ted N. Branch, OPNAV N2/N6.