Saturday, December 8, 2012

Military’s Relationship with Social Media

When social media first began in the early 2000’s the department of defense was just discovering all the advantages and disadvantages that social media could have on a relatively reserved branch of the government.  The military was engaged in two separate conflicts and Soldiers were constantly posting pictures and descriptions about what they were doing.  This caused a lot of issues for operational security or what we call OPSEC in which secret information is leaked.  The other issue was that approximately half of the bandwidth was being used for social media.  The bandwidth was tying up servers that were slow to begin with and were needed for daily operations.  The military did not have a plan for the bandwidth tie up nor did they have a plan for the information leakage that was causing a threat to operations and worst of all Soldiers lives.  The first step the military took in 2007, was to block all social media from government computers and servers.  However, there is always a way around everything and word spread relatively quickly that all you had to do was add an (s) to the http and voila you were able to rejoin the social media world.  This only worked for a few months until that was also blocked and once again, we were unable to connect to the rest of the world.  In the spring of 2010 the Department of Defense reversed its policy and allowed access to all social media sites, even adding a social media hub to their web page.   They adopted policies and required every member of the agency to attend training and sign user agreements about posting information that was a threat to operational security.

Before this class I did not believe that the military was very involved in social media and least of all that top military officials would have any part of the social media network.  However, the 38th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army has a twitter account!  General Ray Odierno has a twitter account in which pictures are posted of him at events and he has almost 10,000 followers.   I was astonished that just two years ago, no one was allowed to even use social media and now top military officials are tweeting about what they are doing.  The use of social media has allowed top military officials to be viewed as more personable, whereas before you just always saw the picture of the person on the wall and did not know anything about them.  The dynamics of the military are definitely changing, I could never imagine a General conveying his daily actions or interacting with the public like social media has allowed the military to do so.  Just think if General Dwight Eisenhower was able to tweet about his daily actions to the Soldiers in Normandy or Austria.  The struggle for operational security and safety of the Soldiers will always be an issue, but the Department of Defense is moving in the right direction with social media.   

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