Update: State of Utah CTO Dave Fletcher reached out and let me know that they removed the document, revised and properly credited the original source, and the process has been reviewed with the staff.

On September 29th, the State of Utah (where I reside) issued a document setting forth their guidelines for appropriate use of Social Media by the various government agencies. An article on GovTech.com entitled Utah Creates Social Media Guidelines for Employees Who Blog, Tweet, Etc. broke the story to the general masses, and so far there has been a fairly positive response. Why wouldn’t there be? What a progressive thing for a government agency to do, right?

The document entitled State of Utah Social Media Guidelines (pdf) (update – this document has been removed) was issued by the Department of Technology Services, and contains information for public officials on when to engage in social media and good advice on how to do so.  And it really is good information.. sections on Transparency and Judicious behavior, as well as being knowledgeable and how to handle mistakes show that the DTS really did their homework.

I’m sure glad Intel posted almost the exact same thing in May of this year. Behold: the Intel Social Media Guidelines (the work of Bryan Rhoads I believe).

To be fair, in the aforementioned article on GovTech.com, Utah CTO Dave Fletcher did say, “We looked at what other businesses have done, and we looked at the few government entities that had something … We also thought it through from our own perspective.”

Let’s take a look, shall we? Let’s see what Intel created and what the State of Utah added as “their own perspective”:

Intel:

Be transparent. Your honesty—or dishonesty—will be quickly noticed in the social media environment. If you are blogging about your work at Intel, use your real name, identify that you work for Intel, and be clear about your role. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out.

State of Utah:

Transparency. Your honesty will be quickly noticed in the social media environment. If you are blogging about your work at the State, use your real name, identify that you work for the State of Utah, and be clear about your role. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out.

I mean wow. Is that plagiarism? I’m not really sure, but it’s not right. Want another?

Intel:

Write what you know. Make sure you write and post about your areas of expertise, especially as related to Intel and our technology. If you are writing about a topic that Intel is involved with but you are not the Intel expert on the topic, you should make this clear to your readers. And write in the first person. If you publish to a website outside Intel, please use a disclaimer something like this: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Intel’s positions, strategies, or opinions.” Also, please respect brand, trademark, copyright, fair use, trade secrets (including our processes and methodologies), confidentiality, and financial disclosure laws. If you have any questions about these, see your Intel legal representative. Remember, you may be personally responsible for your content.

State of Utah:

Knowledgeable. Make sure you write and post about your areas of expertise, especially as related to the State and your assignments. If you are writing about a topic that the State is involved with but you are not the State expert on the topic, you should make this clear to your readers. Write in the first person. If you publish to a Website outside the State, please use a disclaimer something like this: “The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the State of Utah’s positions, strategies, or opinions.” Respect brand, trademark, copyright, fair use, disclosure of processes and methodologies, confidentiality, and financial disclosure laws. If you have any questions about these, see your agency legal representative. Remember, you are personally responsible for your content.

Seems like the “perspective” that the DTS added was changing the word “Intel” to “State of Utah”. What about the rest of the document? Let’s look just the main topics – in order – for each:

State of Utah Intel
Introduction Engagement Rules of Engagement – Transparency – Judicious – Knowledgeable – Perception – Conversational – Excitement – Value – Leadership – Responsibility – Pause – Mistakes Moderating Comments Introduction (untitled) When You Engage Rules of Engagement – Be transparent – Be judicious – Write what you know – Perception is reality – It’s a conversation – Are you adding value? – Your Responsibility – Create some excitement – Be a Leader – Did you screw up? – If it gives you pause, pause Moderation Guidelines

Woo.. they got a little nuts there and changed the order of a few Rules..

For heaven’s sake. It’s like a 10th grader copying their homework out of Wikipedia. Utah DTS, you know what else is a really good guideline you can add to your list? Giving credit where it’s due. It’s one thing to adopt Intel’s fantastic guidelines as policy, but it’s a whole other thing to plagiarize and publish them as your own. Almost word for word. Your high school English teacher would be so disappointed.

Oh, one more thing, Utah DTS. It seems your document has an error, and at the end of page 3 is cut off mid sentence. Let me help you out by pulling what you meant to say from Intel’s guidelines:

Responsibility. What you write is ultimately your responsibility. Participation in social computing on behalf of the State is not a right but an opportunity, so please treat it seriously and with respect..

Lame.

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21 thoughts on “State of Utah’s Social Media Guidelines: A Beginner’s Guide To Plagiarism

  1. Are you %$#&ing kidding me? Just when I thought that we were making some progress something like this happens.

    I wonder if they even understand that by plagiarizing Intel’s guidelines they’ve already broken their own (err um Intel’s) guidelines to being HONEST and TRANSPARENT…

    I’m seriously floored here.

    Reply
  2. Rick, you are a plagiarism whistle blower! I wonder how this fits under “judicious” and sure lacks of ethical!

    They could have at least given credit where it was due instead of writing, “…developed through Utah’s statewide Product Management Council!”

    Now, let’s see if they are listening/monitoring and respond to your discovery!

    Reply
  3. One of the great things about the Internet is that it makes information readily available. One of the not so great things is that it makes it easy to find information and pass it off as you own.

    It looks like you’ve uncovered a great case study in ethics. Perhaps we should focus on ethics in one of our Social Media Club of Salt Lake City monthly meetings.

    Great article, Rick.

    Reply
  4. Of course if Intel had not done such a bang up job of covering all the bases, no one would be tempted to ‘not reinvent the wheel!’ If that isn’t a backhanded compliment I don’t know what is! And Pete is right on! Let’s do an entire meeting on ethics, integrity, manners, etiquette and playing nice in the social media playground! Sheesh, like noone would notice in this ubertechie state! Kudos Rick!

    Reply
  5. Thanks for the great comments everyone. Glad to see that I’m not the only one outraged by this. At BEST, it’s extreme laziness. I’m hoping to get some response from the Utah DTS.

    Reply
  6. I disagree with this point of view. As a state employee at UDOT, engineers learn from each other all the time…its not plagiarism, it’s progress.

    Reply
  7. @Deb – to re-post my reply from twitter: I have absolutely no problem with any organization adopting a public set of guidelines as their own. Intel’s work was fantastic – it SHOULD be adopted by more organizations. What I have a problem with is the state publishing the exact same words as their own, without giving credit where it’s due.

    Reply
  8. Point taken, but I doubt the person at Intel credited every single internet source that contributed to the original, either. As an engineer, I just like to see my ideas used. The desire for credit seems to cloud the desired end result.

    Reply
  9. The actions of the State of Utah are unprofessional and unethical in the tech world.

    It is incredibly easy to utilize the work of someone else when it comes to technology. Because of this fact, it is common decency to include credit where it’s due. Giving credit is also an incredibly easy act and there is no excuse for not doing so.

    Reply
  10. The State of Utah, as a policy, does not plagiarize or violate copyright laws. When I became aware that our Social Media Guidelines document had a large section that was largely taken from Intel, I immediately removed the document from our website and reviewed policy with staff members. I then contacted Intel’s Bryan Rhoads who was the primary author of this content to ensure him that the state of Utah has no intent of plagiarizing his content and to discuss the option of completely rewriting our guidelines or using the Intel content with proper attribution. Bryan suggested that he and Intel posted their guidelines with the intent that they be public and that ideas had been drawn from other sources as well as Intel and that we could proceed with use of the document. We have reposted the document to our site with the attribution that portions of the guidelines have been adapted from Intel. I want to thank Intel for their cooperation and help in creating guidelines that will aid our employees in proper use of social media.

    Reply
  11. @David: Thanks for taking the time to update us on the progress. Pretty much every organization I’ve seen has gotten themselves into a little bit of trouble with social media – the real proof of a great group is the way they handle the repair. Exemplary job so far. :)

    @Dan: just make sure you attribute the original source. :)

    Reply

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