Home U.S. Department of Defense Goes Social…Yes, Really!

U.S. Department of Defense Goes Social…Yes, Really!

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Defense announced a new policy which allows all users of unclassified computers in the .mil domain access to popular social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube among others. This change in policy effectively reverses the previous ban on accessing these types of sites – a ban that had been in place for nearly three years. In embracing the new policy, the department also launched its own social media hub, a blog-like site complete with live Twitter feeds, Tweetmeme buttons and “share on Facebook” links. And in case you thought they weren’t serious, it’s also worth noting (as spotted by the New York Times) that news of this announcement broke on the Twitter feed of Price Floyd, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, and not via a traditional press release.

Reversing the Ban

In May 2007, the Pentagon blocked access to 12 popular social media sites from .mil computers citing “bandwidth concerns,” reports the Navy Times. In August 2009, the Marine Corps banned the same sites, this time citing security issues. Other services also began blocking social media sites at the direction of various commanders in certain locations. Sometimes those bans even led to the shutdown of personal blogs.

Unfortunately for military personnel, these blocking measures forced troops to use their own personal computers in order to communicate with friends and family via Facebook, Twitter and other social media services while stationed in the U.S. When deployed, they had to visit Internet cafes in order to gain access to these sites.

New Policy States: No More Blacklist

The new policy, announced Friday, seeks to balance the needs of troops to connect with their loved ones via social media while also maintaining an appropriate level of security. As the policy goes into effect, the DoD will require all military units to remove the social sites from their internal “blacklist.” According to the Times, Lindy Kyzer, an advisor to the Army’s Chief of Public Affairs on social media issues, said that all the units will be now be required to open access to social networking sites initially. Afterwards, if any commander does need to block sites for security purposes, those blocks can only be temporary. She continues, saying that the “DoD is moving away from the silly notion of having ‘blacklisted’ social media sites and saying, ‘We’re not going to lay down the hammer and tell you where you can and cannot go, we’re going to mitigate risk as it comes.”

In the blog post on the DoD’s social media hub, service members are reminded that while the new policy opens up access to Facebook and the like, other sites like those containing gambling, pornography and hate-crime, are still banned. Also, personnel are advised that “everyone has a responsibility to protect themselves and their information online, and existing regulations on ethics, operational security, and privacy still apply.”

The Social Sites of the DoD

Elsewhere on the DoD Social Media Hub, are links to other DoD social media sites including Twitter feeds for Price Floyd and the department itself, its Facebook page, Flickr account, YouTube account, uStream account and more. Blog posts on the site focus on how the department uses new media and one even points to a free iPhone app that combines Army technology news, social media and job postings in one location.

Those interested in reading the new policy in its entirety can do so here. In addition, the Department of Defense has also launched a SlideShare channel where they’ve posted several presentations about the new policy.

Update: Facebook just emailed us with the complete list of official DoD pages on their site:

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