Agencies still working through GSA's social networking agreements

Some IT managers have yet to obtain permission to use Web sharing applications like YouTube and Add This despite federal licenses allowing it.

Some departments have been slow to approve federally sanctioned agreements with social media providers because federal headquarters and field offices are sorting through the legal language and determining their individual needs, agency officials said.

The General Services Administration in March signed agreements with social networking sites such as YouTube and Flikr that meet federal legal requirements. In late April, GSA made available a fed-friendly license for other new media applications such as Add This, a bookmarking icon that users can click on to share the site with others online, that were intended to expedite the spread of social media throughout the .gov domain.

But obtaining permission to add the applications to federal Web sites still has been slow. The Agricultural Research Service, an agency within the Agriculture Department, requested several weeks ago that headquarters approve a new governmentwide service agreement for AddThis, according to an ARS spokeswoman.

But after repeated inquiries, the agency had not received approval from the top department level that it could add the feature, said officials familiar with the research service's Web site.

"We are all learning through this . . . especially in an agency as large as USDA," said Amanda Eamich, acting director of new media.

Eamich recently was tapped to serve as a liaison between the Web managers and headquarters. She previously worked at the public affairs office in the Food Safety and Inspection Service -- a relatively tech-savvy public outreach shop -- where she helped launch videocasts in American Sign Language. SignFSIS offers text-captioning to educate deaf and hard-of-hearing consumers about food-borne illnesses.

Eamich said ARS had not directly requested permission to post the Add This icon. "I'm trying to help all the agencies get to where they want to be," she said. "Hopefully, the worst case is that this is just a misunderstanding. AddThis is fine."

Meanwhile, several USDA subagencies, such as the Economic Research Service, which installed AddThis with separate terms and conditions before the blanket service agreements were brokered, have bypassed the confusion. The service added the feature early this year, said ERS spokeswoman Mary Reardon. After the governmentwide agreement was announced, the provider informed ERS that the original agreement was still valid, she added.

Eamich said she is surveying department Web managers to determine their social media priorities and to identify which service agreements they have or want to have.

"We're getting there," she said. "It's going to be a matter of folks being flexible to make sure we have approval of counsel and the [chief information officer]."