The Ministry of Justice and the Metropolitan Police have acknowledged disciplining staff for misusing online social networks.
The MoJ has sacked four employees and issued final warnings to three for misbehaving on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Overall it has carpeted more than 40 staff for internet and email offences.
Scotland Yard has revealed that it has launched disciplinary proceedings against 28 police officers for breaching rules on social-networking sites. Eighteen received written warnings for misusing social-networking sites, five were given “words of advice” and four issued with a “formal misconduct” charge. The force decided to take no further action against one officer.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) also disciplined five civilian staff for committing the same offence in the past 18 months — dismissing one of them.
The figures were released in response to freedom of information requests on misuse of social networks from Lewis Communications.
Staff at the MPS and the MoJ are banned from using social-networking sites for personal reasons during working hours. This includes blogging, video and photo sharing and posting comments.
A number of employees have access to social-networking sites for professional reasons with permission from senior management.
The MoJ has also taken disciplinary action against 41 staff for breaches of IT security policy. These included misuse of email, internet browsing, and incorrect use of passwords and login details.
Scotland Yard has issued a nine-point guide advising officers not to disclose they are police, compromise themselves or the force, or bring the service into disrepute if using social-networking sites in their own time. If staff disclose that they work for MPS, they have to make it clear that any views expressed do not represent the official position of the force but are the views of the individual.
They are also told not to use the force’s logo or other copyrighted material and must not post offensive images or comments, or in any way “harass, intimidate, bully, victimise or discriminate” against others.
The force said training was given to staff that underlines the importance of using all MPS computer systems in line with existing law and regulations.
It added: “All MPS police officers and police staff are expected to adhere to the MPS Information Code of Conduct which sets out the policy on the use of MPS Information and information communication and technology systems. The MPS Directorate of Information issues regular reminders to staff on the importance of ensuring they comply with this policy.”
An MoJ spokesman said: “MoJ policy is that staff cannot access social-networking sites for personal reasons. Staff can only access such sites for professional reasons if they are able to provide a strong business case that shows they need to use these media to perform their role.”