Does the Military Need Social Media?

A debate between servicemen over the necessity--and danger--of Twitter, MySpace and Facebook during a time of war.

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A debate over the proposed ban of Twitter, MySpace and Facebook in the armed services is unfolding in--of all places--Facebook. The U.S. Army's page is playing host to a lively and strikingly civil conversation among 40-odd men and women in uniform and their families. Though many have reservations, a strong contingent are happy to support some restriction of their ability to communicate via social media on government computers. Here's what they said:

  • Twitter Is Time Wasted: "I think 'social networking' should be done from your own personal computer, on your time, not with the military's resources and time. You are paid to do a job, not socialize while at work"
  • Security Breaches Are Frequent: "I see [security regulations] violated on social networking sites almost every time I see them, so good on this note."
  • People Can Still Use Their Own Computers: "As long as they don't ban us from using our personal computers and social accounts, I don't care."
  • Soldiers Have Other Outlets. "Army Knowlege Online (AKO) has all of the tools needed for a social networking site and it is monitored by the Army/[Pentagon]."
  • It's Necessary to Keep Out Hackers. "It should be that way! The Taliban is not we all know right?"

The opposition within the military is epitomized by one prominent blogger, Bryan of A Major's Perspective. He homes in on the basic problem of the ban: it shows distrust of soldiers, and deprives them of a necessary tool. In his words:

Instead of training our Soldiers, or putting more security in place, the recommendation is to just cut it off. I'm sorry, but that is not the way the Military works. We do not shoot the messenger...

The American People deserve to know what their wonderful sons and daughters are doing overseas, in harms way. It is our job to tell that to you as Military Professionals.

Not all servicemen meet Bryan's high standards. Even Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois, a Navy reservist, fell prey to charges of "loose lips" when he Tweeted his location at the Pentagon National Military Command Center, a minor violation.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.