GSA opens door to Web 2.0 content for federal agencies

The General Services Administration has signed agreements with Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and blip.tv that make it possible for federal agencies to use new-media tools while meeting their legal requirements, GSA officials announced today.

Under the agreement, agencies can immediately begin using new-media tools that let people post, share, and comment on videos and photos on the Web. Individual agencies must decide which tools their employees may use and how they may use them.

GSA and a coalition of agencies have been working with the new-media providers for some time to develop terms of service for federal agencies. The new agreements resolve legal concerns associated with many standard terms and conditions that pose problems for agencies, such as liability limits, endorsements and freedom of information, GSA officials said.

"We need to get official information out to sites where people are already visiting and encourage them to interact with their government," said GSA Acting Administrator Paul Prouty. “The new agreements make it easier for the government to provide official information to citizens via their method of choice.”

The agreements create a road map for agencies that want to use third-party media providers, said Mark McCreary, a partner at law firm Fox Rothschild and an expert on Internet law. Agencies will likely not need any waivers from the standard provisions approved by GSA, he said.

"The success that the GSA has had with respect to standardizing the provisions of terms and conditions for those provisions causing it concern is meant only to satisfy the contracting requirements for government agencies," McCreary said. "These changes solve the hurdles that arise when governmental agencies want to use the services” but don’t go beyond that.

For example, the agreements do not take into consideration whether an agency should use YouTube or what content should and can be posted, he said.

GSA officials said they are in discussions with other providers that offer such services to develop acceptable terms-of-service agreements.

GSA negotiated on behalf of all agencies because providers were reluctant to expend resources developing separate no-cost agreements with dozens or hundreds of agencies, GSA officials said.

The agreements let providers work with GSA as the principal point of contact, making the process more efficient for the government and the providers, GSA said.

“Several federal agencies helped to negotiate these agreements, so it's hoped that other agencies will find the language acceptable,” said GSA Acting Associate Administrator Martha Dorris.

GSA said it started with Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and blip.tv because those providers are innovative and have large audiences. However, the agency would like to negotiate agreements with many additional providers.

Agencies are already free to use Twitter because GSA found its standard terms of service compatible with federal use.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader Comments

Mon, Mar 30, 2009 Dr. J Tampa

The concept of Web 2.0 I think is an often misunderstood term. Below is the definition from Wikipedia and I concure. Bravo to GSA but danger lies ahead when certain DOD communities start to adobt this technology. Just my HO! "The term Web 2.0 refers to a perceived second generation of web development and design, that aims to facilitate communication, secure information sharing, interoperability, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities, hosted services, and applications; such as social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies."

Fri, Mar 27, 2009

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Fri, Mar 27, 2009 beate Washington, DC

Yes, this is news-worthy for federal agnecies and its employees! The federal governments need to be able to incorporate new communication technologies that citizens are using to better serve the public and encourage knowledge-sharing within its ranks! There is much that the federal governments need to incorporate into business practices in order to yield substantial business value. This action from GSA is but a small 'step for govt' but may just have a 'giant leap' overall!

Thu, Mar 26, 2009 Michael D. Long Knoxville, TN

And this is newsworthy how? The sites listed here are not "Web 2.0" (which requires using scripting in the client browser space to some benefit) but are merely video/audio distribution with an ability to comment. This is a no value add arrangement, and really falls into the category of waste and abuse of taxpayer funds.

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