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Government officials may easily skirt the Public Information Act in the digital age, social media experts said Friday morning during a panel discussion at the annual convention of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas in Austin.

The law requires public officials to conduct the public's business in public. With e-mail and texting, however, it's easy for officials to make decisions before a public meeting ever occurs. Amanda Crawford, assistant attorney general, reminded the audience that all of this public discourse via digital methods remains open.

Crawford talked briefly about the AG's ruling that a Bexar County commissioner had to release e-mail messages from his private account because they were about public business. She said she tries to "hammer home the point" that the issue is the content of the message, not the medium used to deliver it.

Panelists also talked about how public officials increasingly are using social media. Josh Baugh, City Hall reporter at the San Antonio Express-News, said he tried to friend one official on his beat, but that official's Facebook account is maxed out at 5,000 friends.

My Facebook account has hit that level, too. Come on, Facebook, why the cap? Isn't it better to have more friends?

The conference continues today with the awarding of the 2010 James Madison Award to Joe Larsen and a luncheon speech by Attorney General Greg Abbott. At that luncheon, Leslie Wilber and the Victoria Advocate will receive the Texas Gavel Award from the Texas Bar Association for our work on the questionable use of scent dogs by law enforcement.