The Ontario Public Service (OPS) social media guidelines are to provide direction on making appropriate choices by ensuring protection and compliance with existing government legislation. They are meant for:

  • public servants with personal social media accounts
  • those who manage ministry social media channels
  • minister and minister's office staff

These guidelines help to supplement existing OPS legislation, principles or policies that may apply when an employee uses social media in their personal life or as part of their professional responsibilities.

The guidelines cover the following categories:

It is important to note that these guidelines do not address every situation related to social media, which is why public servants should use common sense and follow the legislation, principles or policies when using social media on a personal or professional basis.

When in doubt, discuss with your manager or communications branch.

Guiding principles

Social media plays an important role in our daily lives, from connecting us with friends and family to keeping us updated on the latest news and information. It is also an important communication tool for government. Ministry social media accounts can share information about government products and services, provide customer service, and build relationships with citizens, partners and stakeholders.

In both our personal and professional use of social media, OPS employees should:

provide true and accurate information

adhere to the Oath of Office

adhere to conflict of interest regulations under the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006

comply with applicable principles and policies

OPS employees should not:

  • post, comment on and/or disclose confidential information or confidential matters obtained during the course of your employment
  • use your employment or official ministry social media channels to promote personal interests or 3rd party interests (unless it relates to government matters)

These guiding principles for social media use are important and are further supported by the legislation, principles and policies that guide and protect us in our roles as OPS employees.


Even if you use disclaimers like “the opinions expressed are my own,” you are still responsible for what you say. What you say publicly may impact you professionally and could result in discipline from your employer (up to and including dismissal).

Legislation, principles and policies

There are a number of employment and ethics-related obligations that all public servants must comply with. This extends to their use of personal or work-related social media accounts. This list provides an overview of some of the key legislation, principles and policies, and what they mean for OPS employees.

  • Public Service of Ontario Act (PSOA): ensures the public service of Ontario is non-partisan, professional, ethical and competent. The PSOA and its regulations set out rules for all public servants to follow, including conflict of interest, political activity rights and restrictions, disclosure of wrongdoing processes and protections and confidentiality requirements including the Oaths of Office.
    • Oath of Office: requires employees to swear or affirm that they will observe and comply with the laws of Canada and Ontario and maintain the confidentiality of government information. The Oath ensures that, except when they are legally authorized or required, employees will not disclose or give to any person any information or document that comes to their knowledge or possession by reason of the employee being a public servant.
    • Conflict of Interest rules: are established in the regulations under the PSOA and outline, for current and former employees, what would constitute a conflict of interest. Under the PSOA, a public servant who does not report a conflict of interest, or who does not follow directions from an Ethics Executive, can be subject to disciplinary measures — up to and including dismissal.
  • Respectful Workplace Policy (Policy to Support a Respectful Workplace and Prevent Workplace Harassment and Discrimination): outlines mandatory requirements for the prevention of workplace harassment and discrimination, and promotes respectful and inclusive behaviours in support of the health, safety, human rights and dignity of individuals in Ontario Public Service workplaces. The policy provides direction on compliance with statutory requirements set out in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
  • The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA): outlines the rights and duties of all parties in the workplace in respect of workplace health and safety including workplace harassment. Workplace harassment can include unwelcome and/or repeated words or actions that are known or should be known to be offensive, embarrassing, humiliating or demeaning to a worker or group of workers. It can also include behaviour that intimidates, isolates or even discriminates against a worker or group of workers in the workplace that are unwelcome.
  • Social Media Terms of Use: outlines the terms of use when the public communicate with the Ontario government through social media.
  • Political activity rights and restrictions: establish the rights, rules and restrictions that govern a public servant’s ability to engage in political activity. All employees are entitled to participate in political activity outside the workplace with some restrictions. Additional restrictions apply to employees who are in the “specially restricted class” (senior level management and other specific positions). Public servants are responsible for notifying their Ethics Executive if they wish to engage in activities requiring a leave of absence or need clarification about their political activity rights.


The Acceptable Use of I&IT Resources Policy requires that government resources are to be used exclusively for government business, unless otherwise approved by your manager. It is your responsibility to understand and comply with related mandatory requirements and to conduct your actions accordingly.


There are risks to consider when using social media. Always be mindful of what you post and how you engage through your personal or work-related social media accounts. Keep in mind that information posted could be shared with your employer or even the media, which could have the potential to cause reputational damage to yourself or the OPS.

The legislation, principles and policies are meant to protect OPS employees. Public servants who do not follow these rules in their social media use may be subject to discipline — up to and including dismissal.

Shared commitment

With such a diverse workforce, everyone will use social media differently.

What we all have in common is:

  • our responsibility to the policies and principles that guide our work as OPS employees
  • a shared commitment to ensure continued trust and confidence in the work of the OPS