Monday, March 9, 2015

A message from President Williams

To all,
Below is an important message from President Williams in regard to postings on Social Media.  Even if you have seen this message before, please take time to review this carefully to ensure that we are in compliance with the law and that we adhere to the Europe East Area Presidency counsel.
Thank you in advance for following these instructions.
Russia Novosibirsk Mission Office

Dear Elders and Sisters of the Russia Novosibirsk Mission, Parents, and Friends,
We are so very grateful for each of you who serve in the Russia Novosibirsk Mission and for those who support or are connected with you. This letter is to update and remind you of important principles and facts about the use of media in communicating from and to missionaries in this mission and to request your careful attention and cooperation.
Countries throughout the Europe East Area (EEA) in which our mission is located have stringent laws regarding privacy which significantly affect what our missionaries can legally transmit or publish in their communications with home. Further, what their family members and friends do with such communications, such as sharing or posting on social media or in emails, may affect whether or not a missionary’s communications appear to be compliant with laws of the countries in which they serve – Russia and Kazakhstan, in our case. It is important that we not only comply with the laws, but that even the very appearances of our communications are compliant.
Hence, it is important for both missionaries and their families and friends to take special care with what they share with others in relation to people in the countries in which we serve – whether they are missionaries, Church members, or others.
The following is official guidance from the EEA Presidency on this topic:
Social Media
In EEA countries, it is a violation of data privacy laws to publish pictures or other uniquely identifying information about private individuals without their written consent. Anyone facilitating such activity is breaking the law. As Church representatives, missionaries must comply with this law. Following this law will protect members, missionaries, their investigators, and the Church.
Any pictures or uniquely identifying data that EEA missionaries send home that finds its way somehow into public media – intentional or otherwise – puts those missionaries in violation of this law and can jeopardize the Church’s legal standing in the country. If parents or friends have public internet and social media sites (including Facebook) containing information from the missionary, clearly they should shut them down or convert them to private sites or Facebook pages. However, it is the EEA missionaries, members, and the Church that are at risk here, and missionaries must exercise restraint and good judgment about what they write to their parents or friends and what pictures they may send – because once the pictures and data are sent, the missionaries lose control over how and whether that information finds its way into the public media. For these reasons, missionary letters home should reflect positive, uplifting, faith-promoting and testimony-building experiences, and refer to members and investigators only by first name. Missionaries who choose to send pictures home should recognize the risks in doing so and should caution recipients not to distribute or post such pictures.
Consistent with this guidance, as president of the Russia Novosibirsk Mission, I would like to provide the following additional guidance and requests:
1. Regarding the use of private social media sites to post information from any of our missionaries, please ensure that they:
a. Are password protected in restricting who can access the site,
b. Limit the number of people who can access the site (such as only family members and a limited number of friends), and
c. Post a clear request/requirement for access to the site that prohibits further sharing or posting of the information or photos available on the site.
2. In addition to the privacy laws, religious activities are subject to special regulations under local laws, and non-compliance may create serious problems for the Church. Accordingly, do not share through social media or emails any information or photos of branch, member, or missionary programs or activities (such as preparation day activities, zone conferences, branch socials, missionary meetings, teaching activities, baptisms, or humanitarian projects, etc.).
3. Legal or other challenges should be addressed or communicated only by official Church representatives who are specifically authorized to do so by the Area Presidency or Mission President. Therefore, please do not share, post, or forward through any form of media any information regarding legal or other challenges, or incidents or problems encountered by missionaries, Church units, or members (including such simple issues as visa problems, interactions with local police, apartment issues, etc.).
4. In light of these precautions that limit what a missionary can safely and legally share, I encourage everyone to help missionaries feel comfortable in sharing the remainder what they can properly share. This relates to nurturing an environment in which letters intended for the confidence of family and close friends remain in that circle. Thus, I discourage re-posting or cutting-and-pasting missionaries’ weekly letters onto blogs or other social media.

Sister Williams and I love our missionaries! And we love the privilege of serving in this sacred part of the Lord’s Vineyard. God bless you for your service and for those who support you. We pray that we may together carefully preserve conditions that will permit missionaries to continue to serve here, as we recognize that the vast majority of us are guests in this great land.
Michael G. Williams
President, Russia Novosibirsk Mission

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