ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Most everyone uses social media -- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms -- to share thoughts and ideas. Employees should know, however, that ethics rules apply and may limit their activity on social media.

The Office of Special Counsel has created the following guidance to help federal employees understand what the Hatch Act does and does not allow when using social media.

In general, there are three sets of rules.

1. On duty or in the workplace prohibition

Employees may not engage in political activity while on duty or in the workplace. Political activity is an activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate in a partisan race or partisan political group.

For social media, this means:

• Employees may not post, like, share or retweet a message or comment in support of or opposition to a political party, candidate in a partisan race or partisan political group while on duty or in the workplace, even if their social media account is private.

• Employees may continue to follow, like or be friends with partisan candidates. But, they may not like, follow or friend the social media account of a political party, candidate in a partisan race or partisan political group while on duty or in the workplace.

• Employees may display campaign logos or material on their social media sites, but they may not post, share, tweet or retweet on those accounts while on duty or in the workplace.

• Employees may not use an alias to engage in the conduct above while on duty or in the workplace.

2. 24/7 prohibition -- political contributions

Employees, even when not on duty or in the workplace, may not post or tweet a message soliciting political contributions or inviting people to a fundraising event.

• Employees, even when not on duty or in the workplace, may not like, share or retweet a post soliciting political contributions, including invitations to fundraising events.

• Employees may accept invitations to, or mark themselves as "attending," a fundraising event on social media, but they may not do so while on duty or in the workplace.

• Employees may not use an alias to engage in the conduct above while on duty or in the workplace.

3. 24/7 prohibition -- influencing an election

Employees may include their official titles or positions and where they work in their social media profiles, but the following activities are prohibited:

• Employees may not use their official titles or positions when posting messages directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate in a partisan race or partisan political group.

• Employees may not use a social media account designated for official purposes to post or share messages directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate in a partisan race or partisan political group; official social media accounts must remain politically neutral.

• Supervisors and subordinates may be friends or follow one another on social media platforms. However, supervisors may not send to subordinates, or to a subset of friends that includes subordinates, any message directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate in a partisan race or partisan political group.

• Employees may not misuse personal accounts by making an account "look" personal but contain predominately official information combined with political information. For example, a "personal account" that extensively uses official information and photographs with very little personal information and that also contains partisan political activity would violate this rule.

Disciplinary action

The Hatch Act Unit of OSC enforces compliance with the Hatch Act by investigating alleged Hatch Act violations.

Depending on the nature and severity of the violation, OSC may seek disciplinary action against an employee.

OSC prosecutes Hatch Act violations before the Merit Systems Protection Board.

When in doubt, employees are encouraged to contact OSC at hatchact@osc.gov or 202-804-7002 with questions.