Military Blocks MySpace, YouTube, Cites Limited Bandwidth

The military said it will block worldwide access to 13 Web sites because they strain network capabilities and present operational risks.
The Defense Department also has always maintained the right to monitor all information sent or received through its networks.

Last year's Department of Defense directives stated that employees "including active duty military members" were required gain clearance for public release of information that pertains to military matters and national security, but sharing information in a private capacity was permitted as long as laws and ethical standards are upheld.

Soldiers and insurgents have posted photos and videos of war and death for at least a year on sites like YouTube and Ogrish. Ogrish owner Hayden Hewitt has said the soldiers' footage was more popular than the insurgents'. The military allowed footage of bombs and firefights, as long as they did not provide insurgents with strategic information, bring shame upon the U.S. military, or violate the Geneva Conventions.

It's no secret that the military meant business about prohibiting some content. Last fall, the Army News Service published a feature article about the Army Web Risk Assessment Cell. Some blogging soldiers claim they were demoted after posting information and opinions their superiors deemed inappropriate.

Advocacy groups began to question exactly how the monitoring works, what data is collected, and what privacy protections were in place. Some have sued for more information, claiming the military is withholding information that could show soldiers' free speech rights are being violated. The Pentagon does not comment on pending litigation.

Just last month, the military strengthened the rules by requiring official operational reviews, instead of less formal supervisory clearance for blogs. The new directives apply to all electronically published materials all materials that could contain sensitive information.

Not surprisingly, the increased restrictions are under fire with some accusing the military of censorship. In the meantime, military officials have also been using sites like YouTube and MySpace to get their message out.

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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer