Software // Information Management
Commentary
9/18/2009
12:24 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
Commentary
50%
50%

Marines' Social Media Ban Bad For Morale

The Marine Corps' ban on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and other social media could hurt morale more than it helps security, a public policy researcher said. "The ban is at odds with realities of the 21st-century military," said Chris Bronk, a research fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

The Marine Corps' ban on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and other social media could hurt morale more than it helps security, a public policy researcher said. "The ban is at odds with realities of the 21st-century military," said Chris Bronk, a research fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.The U.S. Marines banned social networking sites from military networks this summer, although it said it would make exceptions as needed, and has its own, internal social networks which Marines will continue to be able to use.

Writing on Federal Computer Week Sept. 17, Bronk, a former Foreign Service Officer who was assigned to the State Department's Office of eDiplomacy, says the social media ban will do more damage than good:

The ban is at odds with realities of the 21st-century military and, instead of keeping warfighters safer, might hinder the development of an information-sharing culture in the military while demoralizing our troops.

In its new policy, the Marines labeled Facebook, Twitter and MySpace "a proven haven for malicious actors and content," contending that their use "exposes unnecessary information to adversaries and provides an easy conduit for information leakage." The policy does not ban Marine Corps personnel from having accounts but prohibits them from accessing the sites via the Marines' Internet connection.

To the operational and communications security specialists in the military, the tremendous amount of communication from the battlefield to the Internet is worrisome. Keeping a lid on plans, tactics and other closely held information is a nightmare - particularly when social-media sites make it so easy and convenient to share information. What if a warfighter accidentally compromises a mission by posting his location on Facebook or shares a photo that jeopardizes the safety of his comrades?

Those are legitimate concerns, but the Marines' ban, however well-intended, is misdirected. Even with the new policy, military personnel can still access the Web for other purposes at work and, once off the job or off duty, log on to Facebook and other social media to share information. By contrast, the benefits of social media are considerable, particularly for personnel who are continents away from their loved ones.

Britain's Ministry of Defence encourages UK military to use social media to keep the public, including friends and family, informed, while being mindful of operational security, Bronk says. And here in America, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "Obviously, we need to find the right balance between security and transparency. We are working on that. But am I still going to tweet? You bet."

The military should educate troops about responsible use of social media, rather than banning social media, Bronk says.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on leading-edge government IT -- and how the technology involved may end up inside your business. Download the report here (registration required).

Follow InformationWeek on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn:

Twitter: @InformationWeek @IWpremium @MitchWagner

Facebook: InformationWeek Mitch Wagner

LinkedIn: InformationWeek Mitch Wagner

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The Agile Archive
The Agile Archive
When it comes to managing data, donít look at backup and archiving systems as burdens and cost centers. A well-designed archive can enhance data protection and restores, ease search and e-discovery efforts, and save money by intelligently moving data from expensive primary storage systems.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Nov. 10, 2014
Just 30% of respondents to our new survey say their companies are very or extremely effective at identifying critical data and analyzing it to make decisions, down from 42% in 2013. What gives?
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of November 16, 2014.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.