It's hard not to make fun of the British Defense Ministry's new public service announcements about social media. Directed at servicemen and women who have mobile phones and computers and Facebook accounts, et cetera, the message is clear. "It's not just your friends and family reading your updates," says one of the new ads, or "adverts" in British. "Think before you tweet/blog/update/tag/comment/check-in/upload/text/share," instructs another. My goodness, that's sort of saying that basically everything people do on the internet is jeopardizing the war on terror. Even your mom is endangering crown and country!
But seriously, the Ministry of Defense isn't kidding. They've issued a set of "Online Engagement Guidelines" in order to button down free-spirited tweeters. Taken out of the military context, the warnings actually apply to everyone who takes too little care of their digital security, and it's not bad advice, especially with the recent hacker epidemic in the U.S. Though it kind of seems a stretch to equate a rogue overshare with your mom inviting a terrorist to tea. Then again, the ads are absurd enough to catch the attention of American bloggers with anglophilic tendencies.
The YouTube campaign also hearkens back to propaganda campaigns during the Second World War. As Tom Chivers remembers in The Telegraph:
During the Second World War, propaganda campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic warned Allied personnel to be careful where they mentioned sensitive information. In Britain, the key slogan was "Careless talk costs lives"; famous cartoons by Fougasse showed British citizens talking quietly, not noticing caricatures of Hitler or Goebbels listening in. Another showed a soldier, an airman and a sailor at a party, clearly trying to impress a young woman, above the words "Keep mum - she's not so dumb!
In the US, the equivalent was "Loose lips sink ships".
Here are a few of those Orwellian posters, also from The Telegraph:
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