US Department of Defense Releases First Ever Social Media Policy

In a move that Office of the Secretary of Defense digital media director Andy Oare described as “long overdue”, the US Department of Defense (DoD) released its first ever social media policy. Up to this point, the January 2019 “Online Information and Electronic Messaging” instruction document offered general guidelines for social media use but was in no way a detailed social media policy. According to Oare:

“Social media has an effect on every one of our service members, civilians, contractors and their families — whether they run an official account or have never heard of Twitter. We owe it to all of them to have one central policy that provides a clearly articulated standard of operation and accountability”

The director went on to explain some of the key objectives of the policy. First of all, it should help ensure credibility of the DoD online and avoid social-media-related controversies. Secondly, the policy was written in a way that is flexible enough to be refined as social media evolves and to allow organizations under the DoD to set more specific guidelines which are better tailored to their specific organizations.

The actual document is 27 pages long or 20 when one subtracts the title page, table of contents, glossary and references. After establishing to what the policy is applicable to and who is responsible for overall DoD social media activity, the document outlines core principles for DoD social media use like professionalism and transparency. Next, the policy explains procedures for how to establish new DoD social media presence from registering an account to expanding to new social media. Then, in the fifth section, the document explains the steps to be taken to make an account clearly identifiable as official and states that DoD emblems and logos are more appropriate then seals for social media accounts.

This soldier seems well-acquainted with the new social media policy (U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. George B. Davis)

In the following section, the policy explains the boundaries of acceptable social media conduct for both official and personal accounts. Notably, DoD personnel are not allowed to support political causes via personal social media accounts nor spread messages deemed offensive or illegal such as hate speech and, perhaps more controversially, materials advocating terrorism. Moreover, no official account can be converted to a personal account or vice versa for cases of individual accounts like that of the Secretary of Defense.

Finally, the report closes out with a section on the administrative procedures for maintain a social presence as well as the dangers of fake accounts and what the DoD dubs “cyber vandalism”.

The full policy document is available here.