U.S. government agencies can now officially use YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo, and blip.tv, using special service agreements that comply with federal terms and conditions. Today, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced that, after nine months of negotiations, the government has signed agreements with these companies that will allow federal agencies to officially post content to these sites. The GSA is also negotiating special terms and conditions with MySpace and Facebook, and it has already determined that Twitter's service agreement is in line with federal requirements.

Legal Concerns

According to stories on Nextgov and Federal Computer Week, the GSA had a number of other legal concerns about the standard terms and conditions of these services, including problems with indemnification clauses, liability limits, and endorsements, which led it to enter negotiations with these services. Also, a lot of the standard agreements call for dispute resolutions by state courts, while for government agencies, federal law has to apply.

It is important to note that these new agreements only cover the free services offered by these companies. The GSA is also looking into expanding these agreements to a wider range of social media services.

A number of federal agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Library of Congress already use services like Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. To do so, however, these agencies either needed special waivers, or they negotiated terms directly with these services. Some of these initiatives have been very successful. Pictures from the Library of Congress, for example, have been viewed over 15 million times.

Library of Congress on iTunes

In addition, the Library of Congress today announced that it will begin to share more of its content on YouTube and, as podcasts, through Apple's iTunes. This initiative will launch in the next few weeks.

Engaging the Public

We are glad to see that the GSA has now removed some of the major stumbling blocks that stopped a large number of government agencies from using social media sites. Now we just hope that these agencies will also use these services to actually engage with citizens.