Social media offers new opportunities for engaging the public. ACUS is working on recommendations about social media in rulemaking, based on a Consultant's Report by Professor Michael Herz of Cardozo School of Law. You can follow, and be part of, this process here.
An initial draft of the recommendations was open for public discussion until November 6, when the Committee on Rulemaking considered possible changes. This meeting produced a revised draft. You'll able to review and discuss Committee Draft 2 here until the Committee's next meeting on November 13. All the Committee's changes will be in the Plenary Draft, to be debated at the 59th ACUS Plenary Session on December 5. You'll be able to review and discuss the Plenary Draft here until November 27 . Comments and discussion on RecommendationRoom will be part of what ACUS considers when deciding to adopt final recommendations, along with comments submitted to ACUS on their project page.
Plenary Draft Public Outreach
2. Agencies should use social media to inform and educate the public about agency activities, their rulemaking process in general, and specific rulemakings. Agencies should make an expansive approach to alerting potential participants to upcoming rulemakings by posting to the agency website and sending notifications through multiple social media channels. Social media may provide a more effective means to reach interested persons who have traditionally been underrepresented in the rulemaking process.
Read the relevant part of the Consultant's Report: Current and Potential Uses of Social Media in Rulemaking and Outreach
3. Agencies should recognize that raising awareness among missing stakeholders (those directly affected by the proposed rule who are historically unlikely to participate in the traditional comment process) and other potential new participants in the rulemaking process will require new outreach strategies beyond simply giving notice in the Federal Register, Regulations.gov, and the agency website. Social media may be particularly effective for successful outreach, and agencies using it for this purpose in connection with rulemaking should consider:
(a) Developing one or more communications plans specifically tailored to the rule and to all types of missing stakeholders or other potential new participants the agency is trying to engage. These plans should be evenhanded and designed to encourage all types of stakeholders to participate.
(b) In outreach messages, clearly explaining the mechanisms through which members of the public can participate in the rulemaking, what the role of public comments is, and how the agency will take comments into account.
(c) Encouraging public response by being clear and specific about how the proposed rule would affect the targeted participants and what input will be most useful to the agency.
(d) Asking all interested organizations to spread the participation message to members or followers. Agencies should be prepared to explain why individual participation can be beneficial and to encourage organizations to solicit substantive, individualized comments from their members.
(e) Using multilingual social media outlets where appropriate.
4. The General Services Administration, the e-Rulemaking Program Management Office, and other federal agencies, either individually or (preferably) collaboratively, should use social media to create and distribute more robust educational programs about rulemaking. These efforts could include: producing videos about the rulemaking process and how to effectively participate through commenting and posting on an agency website or video-sharing website; hosting webinars in which agency personnel discuss how to draft useful and helpful comments; maintaining an online database of exemplary rulemaking comments; or conducting an online class or webinar or providing explanatory materials in which officials review a draft comment and suggest ways to improve it.
Read the relevant part of the Consultant's Report: Education for Effective Commenting
5. Agencies should explore ways to publicize, and allow members of the public to receive, regular, automated updates on developments in, at a minimum, significant rulemakings.
6. Agencies should consider using social media prior to the publication of an NPRM or proposed policy where the goal is to understand the current state of affairs, collect dispersed knowledge, or identify problems. To enhance the amount and value of public input, an agency seeking to engage the public for these purposes should, to the maximum extent possible, make clear the sort of information it is seeking and how the agency intends to use public input received in this way. The agency should also directly engage with participants by acknowledging submissions, asking follow-up questions, and providing substantive responses.
Read the Consultant's Report on Gathering Open-Ended Public Input Through Social Media.
7. Agencies should consider using social media in support of retrospective review of existing regulations, particularly to learn what actual experience has been under the relevant regulation(s).
Read the Consultant's Report: Retrospective Review of Existing Regulations.