Washington, D.C. — Today, Democracy Forward followed-up its earlier call for an inquiry by the U.S. Department of State Inspector General into Ambassador social media abuses, by requesting that the Office of the Legal Adviser ensure United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley surrenders her social media accounts when she departs office. Ambassador Haley has repeatedly violated the Department’s rules prohibiting officials from using their public office to build a personal social media presence, which could lead to personal financial gain. Following Ambassador Haley’s resignation announcement, the group’s letter demands the State Department keep with past practice and require Ambassador Haley to surrender personal social media accounts she used for official business before she leaves office.
“Ambassador Haley’s repeated violation of State Department rules on appropriate social media use amount to an abuse of public trust,” said Democracy Forward Counsel Karianne Jones. “As has been required of previous Ambassadors, the Department must ensure Ambassador Haley surrenders her personal social media accounts prior to leaving office.”
The Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual explicitly prohibits State Department officials, including U.S. Ambassadors, from using personal accounts to engage in official communications on social media. The rules were established to prevent prominent State Department officials from building a personal online presence that can be taken with them upon leaving office. An expansive social media following can easily translate into added influence, prestige, and even pecuniary gain.
As Democracy Forward uncovered, Ambassador Haley’s added publicity appears to be having a material effect: she has seen a 770 percent spike in Twitter followers subsequent to her confirmation—from 192K to 1.67M followers. This represents a 28 percent increase since March, when Democracy Forward first brought the issue of using her personal account for official business to the attention of the State Department by calling for an official inquiry. Over the same period, the official United States Mission to the United Nations Twitter account has seen only a 17 percent bump and now has only 351K followers.
The letter calling for action by the Legal Adviser was sent on October 15, 2018.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.