Monday, March 1, 2010

Department of Defense Faces Social Media Reality

In 2007 the Pentagon block access to a number of internet sites and social media channels. More recently in August 2009 the Marines prohibited members of the Corps from using sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

Some of the reasons given were understandable (others were bogus). These sites facilitate exceptional levels of transparency and immediacy. Members of the military deal with a lot of information that is best if it doesn't fall into the wrong hands. Any of us concerned about the security of our nations, communities and families have a vested interest in those having high value secrets keeping them secret.

But, this blocking policy was Peter putting his finger in the dike. Banning use of social media channels seemed tantamount to banning email or telephones given that these are great ways of communicating with our enemies. It struck me as it did many others that it represented decisions made at the top by security officials and military leaders who, if not Luddites, were at least out of touch with the real world.

That is all changed. The DoD has just released new policies that don't prohibit use of these social media channels and also open up military organizations to make use of internet applications. It replaces a "head in the sand" ban with reasonable and very important policies about protection of infrastructure and protection of classified information. That is the way it should be. You don't protect the nation's security interest by eliminating channels of communication. Better put the military personnel in closed boxes if you want to do that. But you do want to make it crystal clear to those military personnel and others with access to sensitive information what the consequences are for bad judgment in their use. I trust that there will be soon some very visible examples made of military personnel who have abused, misused or in other ways violated the policy. I hope for our national security purposes the examples are very visible. But congratulations to our nation's military leadership in taking this important and logical step forward.

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