In a move that screams “we fear what we do not understand” the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church is requiring its clergy to sign a “MySpace, Facebook and Website Disclosure Agreement.”
The agreement requires clergy to “agree to allow the Kentucky Annual Conference to examine any and all MySpace, Facebook, or other blog and website accounts that I may have.”
While the agreement clearly requires access to all text and media posted publicly to social media accounts, it’s not clear whether it requires access to private messages. The document says, it gives the KY conference permission to “examine any and all … accounts” and “access to any part of these accounts will not be blocked.” “Any part of these accounts” could reasonably interpreted to include private messages.
A person has to wonder, however, whether the people who wrote the document and implemented the policy have much familiarity with social media. The policy is awfully concerned about MySpace, which hardly anyone still uses. The document also states the Kentucky Annual Conference can be found on Facebook at firstname.lastname@example.org. Really? It also asks for the pastor’s Facebook user name. Facebook doesn’t use usernames, unless you consider that to be the part of the URL that follows http://facebook.com/
I’m all for personal accountability, but for the most part accountability is a natural part of social media. People know what they write on their blogs and post to social media is going to be seen by the family, friends, and people in their church they’re connected with online. And in the event of a momentary lack of judgment, I expect one of them would do as Jesus instructed in Matthew 18:15 and send their pastor a quick message asking, “Do you really want to say that publicly?”
What do you think of this policy? Good accountability? Overreaching?