After Errant Melania Tweet, DOJ Rethinks Social Media Policy

Melania Trump, wife of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump

Melania Trump, wife of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The department is making "procedural changes" to the way the social media team operates.

The Justice Department is adjusting its social media policy after a staffer posted a personal message to DOJ’s more than 1 million Twitter followers.

The gaffe occurred Tuesday, in apparent response to allegations that Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention lifted chunks of a speech delivered by Michelle Obama during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

“CNN is the biggest troll of them all lmao #Petty,” DOJ’s official account tweeted, posting a link to a CNN news story headlined, “Campaign denies Melania Trump’s speech plagiarizes parts of Michelle Obama’s.”

The tweet, since deleted, was posted “erroneously” and “was meant for a personal account,” said a DOJ statement provided to Nextgov. The staffer’s access to the account has been revoked.

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This incident prompted DOJ to make “procedural changes to the way we use our social media accounts,” the statement said. The department also plans to “provide additional social media training for employees.”

DOJ didn't respond to multiple requests for more detail about what those procedural changes, or additional training, entail.

Though DOJ is keeping the exact circumstances under wraps, a handful of scenarios could have led to the embarrassing post. For instance, the staffer may have been logged into both accounts at once, toggling between them on Twitter itself or third-party applications such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, and accidentally posted to the wrong account. 

To be logged into both at once, it seems likely the staffer was either using a federally issued device to access both DOJ's and his or her personal account, or a personal device to access both accounts. 

The General Services Administration’s DigitalGov team, which encourages other agencies to use social media in a controlled manner, has outlined several suggestions for safe use, including using two-step verification for access from mobile devices.

DigitalGov's new Social Media Cyber-Vandalism Toolkit recommends social media coordinators use a “protected, official government device” for posting, and that social media teams use a work VPN, cell network, or the "work-connected internet connection."

The DigitalGov office didn't respond to multiple requests for comment about ways to minimize the risk of posting to the wrong social media account. 

Beyond Twitter, it's been a bad week for DOJ tech: the Guardian reported the FBI is being sued for its use of sluggish, decades-old computer systems to process Freedom of Information Act requests.