Social Media
 
 

Social Media

I. Purpose

These guidelines pertain to University of Maryland faculty, staff and their agents, which may include students, who are publishing and commenting on social media on behalf of a UMD-affiliated social media account. These guidelines do not apply to personal social media accounts that are set up by individuals for personal use. For the purposes of this policy, "social media" refers to interactive digital communities for online networking and commentary, including, but not limited to, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube. For the purposes of this policy, the following definitions apply:

  • Official/authenticated university accounts: Social media accounts maintained by the Office of Strategic Communications’ University Communications team that represent the university-wide academic community and not a particular school, college, department or unit.
  • UMD-affiliated social media accounts: Social media accounts maintained by a school, college, department or unit that represent that university component and not the university-wide academic community.
  • Personal social media accounts: Social media accounts set up and maintained by individuals for personal use. These are not affiliated with the university and statements made on these accounts do not reflect the views or values of the university.



II. Social Media Values

The University of Maryland’s social media community values and promotes academic expression and responsible behavior.

The university recognizes the tremendous opportunity and responsibility in using social media to connect directly with prospective students, current students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, partners, supporters, media and community members.

The university believes transparency, respectful engagement and free expression are essential. The university counts the diversity and inclusiveness of its community among its greatest strengths, and as a result, our community reflects a diverse set of values and viewpoints. The university believes that all users should communicate with care. The university is committed to protecting the privacy of members of its community.

UMD faculty and staff are cutting-edge experts in their fields, and are encouraged to broadly share research findings and expert opinions on social media. As a leading public research institution, the university supports the myriad voices of its faculty and staff and fully respects freedom of speech and academic commentary. Academia is a place where civil debate over ideas, healthy feedback and the diverse viewpoints of others are welcome and encouraged.



III. Social Media Guidelines

The official, authenticated University of Maryland social media accounts include:

In addition to these accounts, there are a large number of UMD-affiliated social media accounts currently in use and managed by faculty, staff or students who serve in a communications role for their school, college, department or unit.

Anyone who manages a UMD-affiliated social media account should adhere to the following:

A. Terms and Conditions:
All social media networking platforms have terms and conditions that govern the use of that particular platform. Users should be familiar with the terms of service before engaging, as signing up for an account means agreeing to the terms. Here are links to terms and conditions for some of the most popular social media platforms:



B. Creating New Accounts:
New accounts should be created in consultation with school, college, department or unit leadership. Think carefully about which channels are the best to represent a brand and reach target audiences. Only create social media channels that can be updated on a regular basis. Reach out to social@umd.edu for additional guidance or suggestions, and notify University Communications of the new UMD-affiliated social media account.

It is recommended that UMD-affiliated social media accounts clearly identify which school, college, department or unit they represent. The handles, names and profile photos associated with these accounts should match and clearly reflect who or what they represent. Using the name of a school, college, department or unit — or an appropriate acronym or abbreviation for that school, college, department or unit — is ideal.

Please ensure social media managers of UMD-affiliated social media accounts are trained in current best practices. It is recommended that any UMD-affiliated social media account have at least two administrators for continuity. Provide any staff responsible for updating social media accounts with these social media guidelines. For further training and resources, contact social@umd.edu.

C. Copyright Laws:
Please respect all laws and university policies governing intellectual property including those relating to copyright. Copyright protects original works of authorship that are "fixed in a tangible form." Using a work that is protected by copyright requires permission unless the use falls under one of the exceptions to the license requirement, such as fair use. Fair use allows portions of certain works to be used without permission under specific circumstances. The fact that the University of Maryland is an academic institution does not automatically mean use of a copyrighted work is fair use. For more information on fair use and tools for fair use analysis, please see University Libraries’ Copyright Guide: http://lib.guides.umd.edu/copyright.

Content should not quote more than short excerpts of someone else's work, and should always be attributed to the original author or source. It is good practice to link to others' work rather than reproduce it. When sharing, retweeting, reposting or otherwise repurposing another user's social media content, always make sure the original poster is credited. On Facebook and Twitter, sharing a post or retweeting a tweet automatically provides attribution to the original author. On Instagram, reposting another user's photo does not give automatic attribution; make sure to tag the user in the photo caption to ensure that the audience knows where the content originated and that proper credit is given to the author. It is also recommended to obtain permission from the original author before reposting.

YouTube and other social media platforms require that, when uploading video, the user must own or have rights to use both the video and audio components of the uploaded content. If using music or other audio created by another person, permission to use the song (music composition, score, lyrics) and the sound recording in question is required; this could require obtaining permission from more than one copyright holder.

Posting copyright-protected material on social media channels without permission may lead to content being removed, a strike against the account and ultimately fines for copyright infringement. For more information on copyright and how it applies on social media platforms, see their guides to copyright policy:




D. Privacy Laws:
The university is committed to protecting the privacy of members of its community. Always use ethical judgment when posting information on social media about students, faculty, staff and alumni.

The release of confidential or proprietary information about students is prohibited by law and governed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of "student education records" and personally identifiable information therein. A student education record includes any recorded information directly related to a student and maintained by the university. With limited exceptions, the university may not release student education records without student consent.

FERPA allows the university to designate and publicly disclose certain information that is generally considered not harmful or an invasion of privacy. This information is referred to as "Directory Information." Common "Directory Information" requested includes name, major, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received, and the most recent previous educational institution attended.

FERPA gives students the opportunity to "opt out" and not permit their "Directory Information" to be shared publicly. While the media may request "Directory Information," the university may not be able to provide it without student consent if the student has exercised their right to opt out.


E. Accessibility:
Online accessibility must be taken into consideration when managing any UMD-affiliated social media account. Per the university’s Web Accessibility Policy (https://www.president.umd.edu/administration/policies/section-vi-general-administration/vi-100e), the university is committed to creating and maintaining a welcoming and inclusive educational and working environment for people of all abilities and to ensuring equal access to information and services for all its constituencies. UMD’s Division of IT offers guidance and resources around accessibility on the web. Learn more here: https://itaccessibility.umd.edu.

Many users access social media and the web in different ways; for example, without using audio or by using accessibility tools including screen readers. It is recommended that UMD-affiliated social media account managers keep this in mind when planning and publishing content, and take steps to ensure content is as accessible as possible.

Video Captioning

When publishing videos on social media, remember that some users may not hear the audio. This includes spoken word, sound effects, music and any other audible components. Adding captions to videos helps these community members access video content. Some social media platforms offer ways to add captions when uploading a video. On other platforms, captions need to be added into the video file itself. For live video, remember to add captions after broadcasting, or consider services that provide live captions in real time. Captioning information and guidelines are available on various platforms:



There are many tools and services to help with video captioning. Facebook offers free auto-captioning within its video uploader, but make sure to review the auto-generated captions for accuracy and make any necessary edits. Other captioning tools require a small fee. For guidance when choosing a captioning service, reach out to social@umd.edu.

Image Descriptions

Image descriptions and alt-text provide a description of photos, graphics and other visual content that can be read aloud by screen readers. Many social media platforms offer ways to add descriptions to images before publication, and some offer ways to add descriptions retroactively. For more information on image descriptions and how to add them on various platforms, see these social media platforms’ guides:



Some social media management and scheduling tools also offer ways to do this. If using a social media management service, please refer to its accessibility guidelines or check with an account representative to learn more.


F. Community Guidelines:
Social media accounts create interactive digital communities around people, organizations or institutions, and such communities require management and moderation. Most social media platforms allow members of the online community to share comments and other user-generated content on established accounts.

UMD-affiliated social media accounts should contain a disclaimer stating that any such user-generated content does not reflect the opinions or views of the university. Establish a clear, written policy about what types of content are acceptable and what types will be removed from social channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. The policy should be public-facing and posted in the accounts' bios or descriptions. Below is the university's comment policy that should be used verbatim. Make sure to follow the policy for comment removal (hiding or deletion) to uphold the First Amendment rights of the community. Please consult the University Communications office for guidance.

Social Media Comment Policy

We encourage you to share your comments and ideas. We value and respect diverse viewpoints and welcome productive dialogue within our Terp community. However, comments created on this platform by other users and not by the University do not reflect the opinions or views of the University of Maryland. Furthermore, we retain the discretion to remove comments for any lawful reason, including but not limited to comments that:

  • Contain discriminatory, obscene, threatening, violent, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise unlawful language, images, video or content;
  • Share disinformation with intent to harm;
  • Violate intellectual property rights;
  • Contain commercial endorsements or advertisements or are considered "spam" — repeated posting of identical or very similar content; or
  • Disclose confidential information or personally identifiable information, such as an email address, home address or phone number for yourself or others


This page is not monitored 24/7. If you have an emergency, please contact the appropriate authorities.

For Twitter specifically, it is also recommended to include non-endorsement language in the profile. Although Twitter's character limit on account bios prevents including a comprehensive policy, accounts should include a simple disclaimer, such as that provided below.

Twitter Policy for a UMD-Affiliated Account

RTs ≠ endorsements.


G. Addressing Crises on Social Media:
Social media has a role to play in crises or emergencies, which can include incidents or threats involving campus safety, tragedy, crime or natural disaster. The University Communications office will lead the institutional response and communications and social media strategy. This office serves as the most accurate source to gather and distribute timely information from University Police, the Office of the President and the Incident Response Team. This approach is in place to prevent misinformation, rumor-spreading and inconsistent messages.

For the safety of the university community, during an emergency, UMD-affiliated social media accounts are encouraged to repost messages from the University of Maryland Police Department or the official/authenticated university accounts.

In the event of an issue within a school, college, department or unit, please reach out to University Communications for guidance and support.


H. UMD Voices and Expectation of Online Responsibility:
The University of Maryland expects responsible online behavior by members of its community who are posting on behalf of a UMD-affiliated social media account. Content posted by these institutional accounts should pertain to the school, college, department or unit they represent and should not express personal opinions held by individuals managing those accounts.

In addition to sharing institutional content, faculty members and staff are encouraged to speak, write, blog and post on social media as experts in their field. We never stifle the voice of our faculty.

All members of the UMD community should be aware that when using social media, it is rarely possible to separate expressing personal opinions with university affiliation unless explicitly noted.

Online responsibility also includes adhering to regular employee policies and standards of conduct, available on the following university websites:




I. UMD Voices & Expectation of Online Responsibility:
For UMD-affiliated social media accounts, the University of Maryland name or logo should appear in the social media profile, such as in the profile photo, cover photo or bio.


J. Safety Threats or Requests for Help:
The university does not encourage individuals to post or report safety threats or pleas for help on UMD-affiliated social media accounts. Individuals should call the University of Maryland Police Department (301.405.3333) or 911.

Social media profiles should clearly state that they are not monitored at all times for safety purposes. For example, include a sentence in the bio or account description that says: "This page is not monitored 24/7. If you have an emergency, please contact the appropriate authorities."

However, if an individual does use a UMD-affiliated social media account to post knowledge of a possible safety threat or an actual threat to safety, call the University of Maryland Police Department (301.405.3333) or 911 immediately.


x. Safety Threats or Requests for Help:
If an individual uses your page to post knowledge of a possible safety threat or an actual threat to safety directed at you or others, call the University of Maryland Police Department immediately at 301-405-3333. While you may consider hiding the post, be sure not to delete it, which may hinder an investigation.

Clearly state if you do not monitor your social media site at all times for safety purposes. For example, you can include a sentence in your bio or account description that says: "This page is not monitored 24/7. If you have an emergency, please contact the appropriate authorities."

If an individual uses your page to post a plea for help, consider posting information about how UMD students, faculty and staff can access health services through the Health Center and/or Counseling Center, and contact the University of Maryland Police Department immediately.


IV. Contacts

For questions regarding these guidelines, social media platforms, or the university's social media strategy, please contact the university's social media team at social@umd.edu.


V. Upholding the Guidelines

These guidelines pertain to University of Maryland faculty, staff and students who are publishing and commenting on social media on behalf of a UMD-affiliated social media account. These guidelines do not apply to personal social media accounts that are set up by individuals for personal use.

In the event that a UMD-affiliated social media account does not adhere to these guidelines, the University Communications team will work in partnership with the account administrators.