Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Uncle Sam Wants You – To Tweet

When you think about organizations that embrace social media – you know, that newfangled paradigm that encourages two-way communication between enterprises, employees and consumers – the first one that springs to mind is the U.S. Army, right?

What? No?

Actually, yeah. Reversing their tradition of banning military service members from using social sites like Twitter, MySpace and YouTube the Department of Defense officially released their official social media policy, Directive-Type Memorandum 09-026 last month. Since the title doesn’t exactly say it all (the DOD’s directive writer could use a face to face with a social media consultant, I’m just saying), I’ll recap.

As of now, users of NIRPNET (the DOD’s non-classified network) can use any kind of new media they want. So check Flickr for snaps of the Kandahar sunset, and Facebook for hints on what to stow in those care packages you’re still sending to the soldiers. (Right?) I don’t even want to know what we’ll see on YouTube.

(The DOD’s Social Media Page even has a handy graphic with fancy pop-up information on each of the popular social media sites. See?)

If you’ve noticed soldiers blogging, Tweeting and Facebooking before the oh-so-creatively-named Directive-Type Memorandum 09-026 came out, that’s because those soldiers were lucky enough to serve under commanders who allowed social media. The problem lay in the fact that some commanders arbitrarily shut soldiers out of social media sites, even going so far as making them close accounts or shutter blogs. This new policy specifically prohibits any one commander from making those decisions, essentially opening up access to social media to every member of the armed services.

In my opinion, while there are understandable security concerns (like the recent situation when an Israeli soldier posted details of an operation on Facebook), for the most part this can only be good for our armed services. In my opinion troop morale will soar as our fighting folks are able to have more up to date contact with their loved ones. It’s one thing to arrange for a session to talk to little Johnny and Jenny on the satellite phone, but quite another for the troops to read their spouse’s Facebook pages and keep abreast of the little details as life goes on back home in the country they are fighting for.

But it’s not all family, fun and games for our troops. The policy specifically prohibits some of the baser things in life, namely “pornography, gambling and hate-crime related activities.” So while we here at home can look at jiggly bits, lose our fortunes in a ridiculous manner, or start a Facebook group defaming bacon lovers, our men and women in the armed services still have to put up with a few restrictions on their internet usage.

But wait, there’s more! Uncle Sam also wants you to connect with him. Here are the vital details about how you too can Tweet with the U.S. Department of Defense:





Now I just have one question. What do you want to say to Uncle Sam?


  1. The military has a long history of censoring information from the field, and as you pointed out, this is not always a bad thing. The wrong information in the wrong people's hands can be a disaster. Still, it will be interesting to see how the government keeps tabs on the troops. It appears that there was a good bit of of online activity even before it was allowed. Now that it is permitted, the floodgates are opened.

  2. Exactly. I think its great for morale, but there could be problems. (I.e. people inadvertently revealing locations, etc.) It remains to be seen what will happen...

  3. My brother is heading to boot camp and then officer training school in August. So, I'm happy to hear that I'll be able to keep up with him once he's active duty (I doubt he'll have any kind of access during training). But I have the dual concern of how much information is too much and how dangerous will it be when each individual decides what may or may not lead to a security concern. Sure, it would be nice to see a picture of the Kandahar sunset. But when posted with a time stamp, how easy would it be for insurgents that know the lay of the land to determine troop positions, base layout, or other information. It may be that the Army believes it impossible to quell the flow of social media and so is just going with the surge. But it only takes one disaster to cause a complete change in policy.

  4. I agree with the rest of you, this is a great thing to have so that our troops can keep in contact with their loved-ones. However, this may lead to inadvertently revealing locations and other information.

    Social media is going places I never thought it could. I hope it does more good than harm to our soldiers.

  5. Well, I'm excited that our soldiers get to keep in touch with loved ones and supporters, and that troop morale may go up--hey, it's a freedom of speech to tweet, right?

    I'm not a soldier and strangely I'm not friends with any one who is (although that is no indication of my utmost respect for them), so I can't speak for the ladies and gents serving overseas and in forts around the U.S. But here's my immediate reaction: The U.S. Military might as well make a reality TV show.

    What happens to Don't Ask Don't Tell when soldiers tweet about their same-sex beau's back home? Or when questionable photos are posted on Facebook during leave? Or when a soldier-blogger shares details about a past or future mission? Or when Tumblr reveals photos about where troops are located? Or when a soldier loses focus because the folks back home seem so near?

    It seems like the Military has a lot of rules to put in place regarding what content is allowed online, what content will get a soldier in trouble, and how to regulate the thousands of feeds going in and out of camps across the globe.