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The digital era has raised important questions about how Americans approach civility and by extension trust in their municipalities. According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans’ confidence in local government has slipped, hitting a decade low for both state and local governments. Similarly, Americans gauged the severity of division at an average of 76 on a scale of 0-100. Deepening polarization combined with troubling economic factors is a contributing element.
While public health and the economy may eventually improve, political polarization shows no sign of letting up soon. On top of that, social media has proved to be a significant contributor to fueling political outrage and polarization. A 2021 Georgetown poll found that nearly 90% of voters blame social media platforms for deepening divides.
With civility in a precarious place, municipalities can’t afford to harbor division in their workplaces. The good news is that public confidence in local government has historically sat significantly higher than that in either state or federal government. The bad news is that social media can have profound ramifications for how local communities–and therefore the very citizens working in the foundations of local government–relate to one another,
How Social Media Screening Can Help City Governments Rebuild Civility In Municipalities
In a government comprised of its people, municipalities are in a unique position to set the example from multiple points of governance and shape the culture of their communities. Like every other workplace, a healthy culture begins with the hiring process. While traditional background checks are still a healthy prerequisite, the types of behavior that erode civility and brew hostile environments won’t necessarily show up on a traditional background report. However, that behavior may already be visible through an individual’s online content.
Local governments actively supplement criminal searches when utilizing Social Media Screening to analyze publicly available information. By using a third party to protect the privacy of prospective employees, municipalities can quickly and efficiently screen out violent, threatening, or intolerant behavior that may sow division in the workplace and contribute to a lack of confidence in their institutions.
Policies act as a reflection of a municipality’s vision for a healthy local government. By instituting a uniform screening policy across the board, city governments have the opportunity to affect rare influence on their communities by setting the standard for civility and non-partisan engagement, on the job and off.
Here is how social media screening may already be at work in some branches of government:
Many law enforcement agencies around the country utilize social media screening as part of a comprehensive screening procedure intended to keep their workforce and the public safe. By adding this layer of screening to an extensive battery of background checks, agencies can leverage publicly available information to root out potential insider threats, including but not limited to extremist rhetoric and sexually inappropriate behavior.
Click here to read case studies of how social media screening has affected positive change in various industries.
Reputation is everything in an attorney’s office. To maintain credibility with the public and trust within the justice system, the attorney’s office must be able to maintain a spotless reputation. Unfortunately, a good reputation is easier than ever to bring down with a few careless clicks of a mouse. Employees in an attorney’s office not only must maintain confidentiality when leaving the workplace, but they must also ensure that their behavior reflects well on the office. In this case, social media screening becomes a maintenance tool–leveraging digital content to screen for business-related behavior–and that ensures that the integrity of this branch of government can remain intact.
Click here to read a case study on how a private law firm maintains its reputation using third-party screening.
A municipality must maintain the goodwill and trust of its citizens in as many departments and agencies as possible. To that end, utilizing a standard tool across city agencies can be a powerful way to create a united front to encourage non-partisan civility across the board.
To learn more about writing an actionable social media policy visit our insights page.