UW PASS Council

UW Social Media Guidelines


The University of Washington (UW) supports participation in online communities and maintains its strong commitment to academic freedom in these channels.

The UW is rapidly integrating the use of social media into its academic, research, and service mission. There are information security and privacy risks as well as ethical, professional, legal, technological, personnel and interpersonal issues associated with the use of social networking and media. These Guidelines are intended for department or unit (academic or administrative) sponsored social media and department or unit authorized use of social media for background searches on candidates for hire and/or promotion. All UW policies as well as state and federal laws apply to online activities.

Social media applications allow users to post content and share information, profiles, photos, and opinions with virtually anyone. Postings and content ownership are subject to the terms and conditions and/or privacy policy of the social media provider. Examples of social media include, but are not limited to:

  • Social networks, such as Facebook
  • Professional networks, such as LinkedIn
  • Video sharing, such as YouTube and vlogs (video weblogs)
  • Audio sharing, such as podcasts
  • Photo sharing, such as Flickr and Photobucket
  • Social bookmarking, such as Digg and Redditt
  • Public comment sections on webpages (such as those for online news sites)
  • User created web pages such as Wikis and Wikipedia, and
  • Any other internet-based social media application similar in purpose or function to those applications described above.

The UW has institutionally developed or contractual relationships with additional social media applications including, but not limited to:

  • UW Catalyst Tools
  • UW Google Apps
  • Microsoft Office 365


These Guidelines apply to department or unit (academic or administrative) sponsored social media. In addition, they refer to existing UW policies, as well as state and federal laws, that prohibit certain actions by academic personnel, staff, volunteers and student employees, also referred to as “workforce members.”

Best Practices for Use of Social Media

  • Be Thoughtful About Your Posts

    There is no expectation of privacy when using social media. Consider what could happen if a post becomes widely known and how that may reflect on both you and the UW. Search engines can turn up posts years after they are created, and comments can be forwarded or copied. If you wouldn’t say it at a conference or to a member of the media, consider whether you should post it online. If you are unsure about posting something or responding to a comment, seek advice from your supervisor, residency or academic advisor, or the department head or Chair.

  • Maintain Confidentiality

    Observe all state or federal regulations such as FERPA and HIPAA and University Administrative Policy Statements. Do not post personally identifiable information or protected health information.

  • Remember Your Audience

    A presence in the social media world is or easily can be made available to the public at large. This includes prospective students, current students, current employers and colleagues, patients and their families, and peers. Consider this before publishing to ensure the post will not alienate, harm, or provoke any of these groups.

  • Strive for Accuracy

    Get the facts straight before posting them on social media. Review content for grammatical and spelling errors. This is especially important if posting on behalf of the UW in any capacity.

  • Personal Use

    These Guidelines are aimed at use of social media for work purposes, not personal use. Laws and regulations generally prohibit personal use of computers and network facilities to access social media sites. See APS 47.2.

  • UW Core Values

    Communicators should be mindful of the UW’s Vision and Values. Do not post any material that is obscene, defamatory, profane, threatening, harassing, abusive, hateful, or embarrassing to another person or entity. Individuals may be held personally liable for posting such material. See the Non-Discrimination and Non-Retaliation Policy, as well as UW’s Core Values.

  • Use of Social Media in Hiring and Decision-Making

    Using social media to gather information on candidates may open a multitude of undesired and/or unintended risks and issues. Therefore, it is recommended that social media resources are not used for pre-employment hiring and promotion decision-making.

Summary of Relevant UW Policy

Violation of any UW policy by any UW workforce member while using social media will be treated similarly to any other violation of UW policy. UW workforce members who violate UW policy in the context of the use of social media will be subject to disciplinary and/or corrective action(s) when applicable. See below for a non-exhaustive list of UW policies and state and federal law that UW workforce members should consider while using social media:

  • Non-Discrimination

    You may not engage in actions that constitute discrimination,sexual harassment/harassment/retaliation/disparagement on the basis of protected categories, such as race, color, sex, age, sexual orientation and disability. For more specific guidance, see the Non-Discrimination and Non-Retaliation Policy.

  • Confidential, Proprietary and Trade Secret Information

    Confidential, proprietary and trade-secret information about UW or its affiliates, students, employees, or alumni may not be posted. Disclosing student educational records or personally identifiable student information violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

  • Patient Privacy/HIPAA

    Patient privacy must be maintained in all communications. Do not disclose information that may be used to identify patients or their health condition and remember that even de-identified information may be recognized by patients, their families, or their employers. See the Patient Information Privacy Policies.

  • Copyright and Intellectual Property

    Copyright and intellectual property rights must be preserved. For comprehensive guidance, consult the UW Copyright Connection. This useful site contains links to relevant laws and UW policies including the UW Patent, Invention and Copyright Policy and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Violations may result in lawsuits, fines, and imprisonment. Copyright content can be very valuable; owners may routinely search to see if their material is being used without permission and may take steps to enforce their rights.

  • Trademarks and Licensing

    The UW owns and controls its name(s) and other marks, logos, insignias, seal, designs and symbols. Unauthorized use of these trademarks is prohibited by UW trademark and licensing policies (see University of Washington Trademark and Licensing Policies), and is subject to civil and criminal penalties. The UW reserves the right to assess financial penalties, issue cease and desist orders, or take other legal action.

  • Personal Liability for State Ethics Law Violations/Executive Ethics Board/Administrative Policy Statements Regulating Employee Behavior

    The use of UW resources, internet access, networks, and time on the job is subject to a number of UW policy or specific state of Washington regulations.

  • Personal Use of University Facilities, Computers, and Equipment by University Employees

    As employees of Washington state agencies, academic personnel and staff are subject to State law and UW policy that prohibits the use of computers and networks for most personal use except under certain circumstances. Workforce members who violate published UW policies regarding the personal use of UW resources, facilities, computers, and equipment, or policies regarding outside work and conflict of interest are subject to appropriate disciplinary or corrective action, including dismissal. See APS 47.2: Personal Use of University Facilities, Computers, and Equipment by University Employees.

    Allegations of noncompliance with APS 47.2 are handled in accordance with APS 47.10: Policy on Financial Irregularities and Other Related Illegal Acts.

  • State of Washington Ethics Regulations

    Violations of State Ethics Laws result in personal liability. For more comprehensive information, see the Washington State Ethics Board. The Executive Ethics Board’s determinations and actions are independent of any disciplinary or corrective action taken by the UW.

    In addition, the Washington State Executive Ethics Board has the authority to investigate allegations of improper use of state resources, and is charged with enforcing laws and rules prohibiting state workers from improperly using state resources. See Authority of Executive Ethics Board.

    State resources may not be used to support, promote, or solicit for an outside organization or group unless otherwise provided by law and UW policy, to assist an election campaign, promote or oppose a ballot proposition or initiative, or lobby the state legislature.

    Supervisors are responsible for monitoring the use of state resources, determining whether frequency or volume of use complies with the law, counseling staff as needed, and revoking access privileges, if necessary. There is no expectation of privacy when using a UW resource to visit internet websites. For example, email communications and internet use may be subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act or for audit purposes. See Chapter 42.56 RCW, Public Records Act.