Software // Information Management
Commentary
8/4/2009
12:13 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
Commentary
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Marines Ban Social Networking Sites

Citing security concerns, the U.S. Marine Corps banned Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites from its networks, effective immediately, for a year. And other branches of the military are considering doing the same.

Citing security concerns, the U.S. Marine Corps banned Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites from its networks, effective immediately, for a year. And other branches of the military are considering doing the same.Wired's Danger Room blog has been following for the past few days the story of how Pentagon officials are pushing back on widespread adoption of social media within the military.

"These internet sites in general are a proven haven for malicious actors and content and are particularly high risk due to information exposure, user generated content and targeting by adversaries," reads a Marine Corps order, issued Monday. "The very nature of SNS [social network sites] creates a larger attack and exploitation window, exposes unnecessary information to adversaries and provides an easy conduit for information leakage that puts OPSEC [operational security], COMSEC [communications security], [and] personnel… at an elevated risk of compromise."...

Yet many within the Pentagon's highest ranks find value in the Web 2.0 tools. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has 4,000 followers on Twitter. The Department of Defense is getting ready to unveil a new home page, packed with social media tools. The Army recently ordered all U.S. bases to provide access to Facebook. Top generals now blog from the battlefield.

The Marines will make exceptions to the blockade if needed, and the Corps has its own, internal social networks which Marines will continue to be able to use.

The Marines are not alone; the entire Defense Department is considering a social media ban, Danger Room reports.

Social networks present a tough quandry for the military. On the one hand, they're a powerful tool for building support for the war at home, and keeping morale up.

One active-duty U.S. Army Major hopes the ban doesn't pan out."The American people deserve to know what their wonderful sons and daughters are doing overseas, in harms way. It is our job to tell that to you as military professionals," he blogs. "I truly hope that logic prevails in this situation."

The Pentagon recently hired a social media czar to encourage use of the tools in the military; he's pushing back against the ban. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently expressed concern that America is losing the social media war.

On the other hand, the security concerns are staggering. Danger Room cites the threat of viruses and phishing scams spread over social media networks. And soldiers can give out information that the enemy can use to compromise Americans' security-sometimes unwittingly, as when Congressman and Navy reservist Mark Kirk tweeted that he was "on duty @ the Pentagon's National Military Command Center," or Congressman Pete Hoekstra Twittered about a fact-finding trip to Iraq.

I'm encouraged to see this issue being decided with intelligent arguments on both sides. Too often, when openness and security are at odds to each other, extremists on both sides take over the discussion, which becomes an argument between pie-eyed hippies who think a hug is a solution to every problem versus paranoids who have seen way too many Dirty Harry movies. In reality, hugs are great, but there are, unfortunately, a lot of murderous thugs out there, and reasonable people need to find strategies to navigate between the two.

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