Democracy Forward filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of State Inspector General, demanding an investigation into whether Ambassador Nikki Haley and others are violating State Department rules by using their personal social media accounts to post content related to their official duties in an attempt to grow their personal social media presence for personal gain.
The Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual explicitly prohibits U.S. Ambassadors from posting content related to their official duties on personal social media accounts. The rules were established to prevent State Department officials from using their public office to build a personal online presence that can be taken with them upon leaving office. An expansive social media following can translate not only into added influence, but also pecuniary gain, such as by an Ambassador marketing her or his book.
Recent press accounts have highlighted apparent violations by some of the most high profile Ambassadors appointed by President Trump. For example, Ambassador Nikki Haley has repeatedly posted official matters related to her ambassadorial duties on her personal Twitter account. As Democracy Forward uncovered, Ambassador Haley’s added publicity appears to be having a material effect: she has seen a 625% spike in Twitter followers subsequent to her confirmation—from 192K to 1.36M followers. The official United States Mission to the United Nations Twitter account, by comparison, has only 300K followers.
Democracy Forward also reviewed the social media profiles of Scott Brown, U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, Callista Gingrich, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, each of whom appear to have violated the State Department social media rules.
On January 1, 2019, Nikki Haley announced that she would be complying with State’s social media policy. We still have not received a response on remaining State Department officials.
Due to State Dept rules that were changed by the outgoing administration, I have had to clear my personal Twitter account that I have had for years. The followers, the history, the pictures, and all other content. Please refollow and retweet this to your friends. Here’s to 2019!
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) January 1, 2019