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Thursday, August 21, 2008

City Council Sets New Policy On Council Blogs

posted by on August 21 at 15:53 PM

In a dramatic about-face, the city council has issued a series of rules and regulations governing council member blogging, which is strikingly different from the proposed rules I posted yesterday.

For months, the city’s legal, administrative and IT departments have been discussing implementing blogging and web rules for council members. A rules proposal released last month “discouraged [council members] from establishing and maintaining additional or alternate sites” and would have required council members to take down campaign websites after elections.

“We wanted to start off restrictive, see how this thing works and see how people are able to work with it,” says city council administrative director Denise Williams. “We wanted it to be clear to citizens that when [a council member is communicating] with you [online] it is in an official capacity.”

Williams, and members of other city departments put together the initial draft of restrictive rules and disseminated it to council members through council president Richard Conlin.

Today, the city implemented a new policy which removed a number of the scary, speech-stifling restrictions present in the earlier draft. “We’ve taken out some redundancies [and] tried to give council members some bare-bones direction,” Williams says. “The city does not yet support blogging [but] I think it is moving in that direction.”

The new list of regulations isn’t particularly exciting, but here’s the meat of it:

• Councilmembers shall utilize the provided City web address as their primary web site. Redirection, cross-linking, or otherwise orienting visitors to an alternate site as the primary site is contrary to the policy and purpose of the City Council web site and is not allowed. Links to supplementary sites must be clearly identified as not City of Seattle sites.

• Links from Councilmember Home Page: Links to external content must be identified as external links, and distinguished from navigational links, menus, and links to other City of Seattle web sites.

• Links to external content should open in a new window: Hyperlinks to external content should open a new tab, or “spawned” browser window. Visitors should be advised that pop-up blockers may interfere with this action.

The following rules apply to the City Council site and Councilmembers’ primary websites:

Citizens have the right to expect governments to protect their interests. To ensure that information is secure, access is easily available, and personal information is protected, avoid referencing or linking to sites that:
i. Contain content that is secured or restricted to members or friends.
ii. Require subscription or registration. When this is done, label these links “registration required”.
iii. Attempt to install malware on a visitor’s computer.
iv. Are inaccessible to a substantial number of users, such as sites that work with only a specific browser.
v. Require specific applications to view. If necessary, explicitly indicate the required application needed to access the content.
vi. Violate the copyrights of others.
vii. Illegally distribute the work of others.
viii. Are unlikely to remain operable for a useful amount of time;
ix. Host lists of URL redirection such as (
x. Include content that would be identified as inappropriate to be linked to a City site by the Office of Ethics and Elections.

Conlin’s office has indicated that he was not behind the initial restrictive set of rules, but would not divulge who proposed the crazy crap in the first draft.

The city council may end up changing the rules again in the future, but the current policy goes into effect today.

RSS icon Comments


It's telling how quiet the Council can get after they float a stupid idea.

Posted by Zander | August 21, 2008 6:18 PM
"Links to external content should open in a new window: Hyperlinks to external content should open a new tab, or 'spawned' browser window. Visitors should be advised that pop-up blockers may interfere with this action."

Annoying and lame. Let me decide for myself if I want to open a new browser window.

Posted by litlnemo | August 21, 2008 6:44 PM

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