A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Defense blocked troops in overseas combat areas from accessing sites like MySpace and YouTube, citing concerns about the increased use of the sites and the potential to overwhelm the military's private network or compromise combat-sensitive material on the network.
Almost immediately, the government was criticized for preventing homesick troops from being able to stay in touch with friends and loved ones via the sites - and the government subsequently did a bit of back-pedaling on its decision.
Now, the military - specifically the U.S. Marine Corps - is at it again. Effective immediately, the Marines are blocking access to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace for at least one year. According to a Wired report, the order from the Marines read (see full memo):
These internet sites in general are a proven haven for malicious actors and content and are particularly high risk due to information exposure, user generated content and targeting by adversaries. The very nature of SNS [social network sites] creates a larger attack and exploitation window, exposes unnecessary information to adversaries and provides an easy conduit for information leakage that puts OPSEC [operational security], COMSEC [communications security], [and] personnel... at an elevated risk of compromise.
It's hard to argue that point - especially since scams and spam seem to be on the rise within the social networking worlds. But the Wired piece also goes on to note that even the military itself has a large presence on social networking sites.
- The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has 4,000 Twitter followers.
- The Defense Department's soon-to-be-unveiled home page will include social media tools.
- The Army recently ordered all U.S. bases to provide access to Facebook.
- Top generals blog from the battlefield.
In fact, Price Floyd, the Pentagon's newly-appointed social media czar, told Wired that the military can't "let security concerns trump doing business." The military, as part of its outreach, needs to be where the people are - and these days, that includes social networking sites.
I can understand why branches of the military might be concerned. But I think there's also a fine line to walk in allowing the troops access to these sites as means of staying in touch with loved ones, a morale booster.
What are your thoughts? Have the Marines gone too far with a full-scale ban? Or is the government right to be concerned about the possible over-exposure that comes with allowing these sites on the military networks?