US Army warns: Tweet with care

America’s enemies include those who are “trolling social networks, blogs and forums,” a new Army document claims.

But don’t worry: leaving snarky comments won’t get you an early hours visit from the Green Berets. Trolling in this sense refers to foreign operatives reading through such sites for information that could compromise military security.

The warning comes in a 39-page document setting down the US Army’s social media policy, which effectively boils down to: go ahead, but don’t be stupid.

The document opens with a letter from the Army’s chief of public affairs, Stephen Lanza, who says military staff should “embrace social media.” The guide says “soldiers have always been the Army’s best and most effective messengers” and that social media allows every solider to “be a part of the Army story.”

However, it’s not anything goes: the guide warns that when using social media, soldiers must:

  • follow the Uniform Code of Military Justice (effectively the body of law that specifically governs those in the military);
  • maintain security by avoiding ” mentioning rank, unit locations, deployment, dates, names, or equipment specifications and capabilities.”
  • never geotagging photographs;
  • not use location-based social networking applications while on deployment; and
  • not use copyrighted material on social media sites.

The guide also gives some further tips such as setting all social media accounts to the highest level of privacy setting, reviewing all pictures for potential security risks before uploading, and making sure family members know what they can and can’t mention in online postings.

There’s also specific advice for those in command positions, including a warning that “if you wouldn’t say it in front of a formation, don’t say it online”, and a suggestion that senior-ranking soldiers should not befriend or follow subordinates unless they are using social media in a purely professional capacity. (The logic appears to be that no soldier should see what his or her sergeant got up to on Spring Break all those years ago.)

There’s also a warning to Army communications staff that social media is not a one-way medium: “Answer questions as often as possible… Listen to what the audience is talking about and be prepared to engage. This is the best way to stop rumors before they run rampant.”

And in case you’re wondering, yes that is a genuine image from the guide. And if you’re tempted to comment on the photo editing skills involved, just remember: these dudes have big guns.

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5 Responses to US Army warns: Tweet with care

  1. "The logic appears to be that no soldier should see what his or her sergeant got up to on Spring Break all those years ago."

    The post officially broke down at this point. The logic has nothing to do with the senior person's personal history, and everything to do with fraternization between different ranks that can result in real or perceived undue command influence (unfairness and favoritism). This is a real problem, and hurts unit morale and cohesiveness.

    I have to wonder, though: if everything "effectively boils down to" a six word phrase, why all the details on mundane aspects? This post instead could have focused on the challenges faced that have led to the policy, the challenges faced in implementing it, the consequences of it, or any number of more interesting (and journalistic) directions.

    "And if you’re tempted to comment on the photo editing skills involved, just remember: these dudes have big guns." Oh, brother… Maybe you would have been better off avoiding this topic all together. Or perhaps enlisting for a while and learning something about the internal military culture before writing on it.

  2. This is all standard stuff that's been in practice for years. (For probably older than I've been alive and I'm 27yrs old.) They're just reminding people that the internet isn't some big anonymous message board where you can post anything and no one will see. The very old or very young forget this fact frequently so it requires a constant reminder.

    When my husband was deploying, I couldn't tell his family where he was going or when he was leaving. (To the great annoyance of my MIL!) When he was coming home, he couldn't tell me when. We had to wait to hear through official channels on the base. My friend's husband is deployed right now, and I make sure to be careful the questions I ask concerning what's going on with him.

    The rank thing…. well… in practice there does appear to be some leeway with this. Apparently if you're not in the same squadron, base, or military branch, you can be friends. Sort of… kind of… Well, it does happen and as long as you don't make a big deal about it no one seems to care.

  3. Haha, try telling that to the girls of Facebook, who feel the need to let everybody know when they're going to the toilet, having a drink, or going through relationship problems with a man.

  4. While I tend to agree with what you're saying, there is a much more respectful way to say it, and a much less public venue in which to say so.

    It seems that you have spent some time in the military culture, or at least around it. If so, then I would like to thank you for your service, and also say that I, for one, would welcome you to respectfully correct errors in the post so that I may learn from your experience and wisdom. I just don't want to read a bash comment which causes me to believe that the lesson of respect was lost on you.

    As a final note, last I checked, most of us who read GaS posts don't read them for intrinsic journalistic value, but because we find them amusing or informative on some other level.

    I apologize to GaS if my comment seems disrespectful to yourselves or to Aa in any way, but this sort of discreet undermining frustrates me enough to say something.

  5. *Ahem* as somebody who has just enlisted in the Navy, this is very beneficial to me, thank you for posting.

    As for these rules, it pretty much should go with whatever your occupation, regardless of what you do. It could affect you.

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