Military brass embrace social media, but soldiers may be restricted

September 10, 2009

For 10 months, an Army specialist in Afghanistan nicknamed “Mud Puppy” wrote a blog irreverently chronicling life at the front, from the terror of roadside bombs to the tyrannies of master sergeants. As The New York Times reports, the reservist hid his blog behind a password-protected wall so his superiors couldn’t censor it.

At the same time, Pentagon officials and four-star generals have begun hailing the power of social networking to make the American military more empathetic, entice recruits and shape public opinion of the war. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of American forces in Iraq, reportedly is on Facebook, while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, has a YouTube channel and posts Twitter updates almost daily. On Aug. 17, the Department of Defense unveiled a Web site promoting links to its blogs and its Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sites, the Times reports.

But citing concerns about cyber-security, the Department of Defense plans to soon issue a new policy that is expected to restrict access to social networking sites from military computers, perhaps limiting access to those who can demonstrate a clear work need, like public information officers or family counselors. The debate reflects a broader clash of cultures between the unfiltered, bottom-up nature of the Web and the tightly controlled, top-down traditions of the military. One solider who writes a blog critical of the Iraq war reportedly said the Pentagon’s social media sites are “like your parents using modern slang and failing miserably.” — Compiled by Greg Beaubien for Tactics and The Strategist Online


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