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Social Media Reshape Military Life

Photo, DoD
Photo: DoD

In a move signaling the pervasiveness of social media, the Department of Defense has recently allowed service members to use social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter at work.

While DoD monitors individuals’ use, it is also using them to ensure consistency in organizations’ online footprint.

The new policy requires organizations to register their Facebook pages as an “official external presence” with the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs on a list maintained on www.Defense.gov (linked under “social media”). A military organization page must use official logos, official website links and adhere to a list of directives and regulations.

Even though the new DoD social-media policy does not require organizations to use social media, it has an entire hub dedicated to them. The U.S. Army alone has hundreds of official Facebook pages, and thousands more comprise the collection of military pages, mostly on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Even the Army’s Installation Management Command, who oversees Army communities worldwide, makes it clear in its terms of reference that public affairs offices are responsible for telling the Army and IMCOM story “through all communication venues inclusive of press releases, Internet, newspapers and social media.”

Being registered enables users, whether soldiers, family members or the public media, to confirm a site is official and a reliable source of information. Sites on the DoD Social Media registry must operate under guidance from commanders, officers-in-charge, or service component and the information posted complies with DoD policy, existing regulations and official public affairs guidance.

Now that social-media sites are accessible both at home and work and their use is officially encouraged, users must consider how to manage their “brand” while safeguarding privacy.

“One way to protect against identity theft is to sign up and register your Facebook page (or other popular social-media account) before someone else does. Own your space,” said Steve Dalby, an Army Europe Information Technology training specialist who teaches a Social Networking Systems and Site Awareness course.

He adds that servicemen and woman should always obtain approval before starting a new official Facebook page, and keep in mind that the principle of “need to know” applies to military conversations just as much as it does to private conversations. Instead of posting comments on a friend’s Facebook page, maybe a private message is better idea.

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