Article: DoD May Ban Twitter…

Considering the lively discussion on social media after the OGI conference, and DoD’s heavy involvement in using and promoting social media tools, I have to say this article was a real eye-opener. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing becomes more and more apt for government when it comes to web 2.0.

DOD may ban Twitter, Facebook, other social media

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Henry Brown

A related discussion in the Government 2.0 group

APPARENTLY some in DOD believe that they can create their own social networks and NOT be dependent on publicly available applications as they are currently doing now with Wiki’s and and they did at least to varying degrees with Instant Messenger (Jabber I believe it was called) and their “own” version of the internet access (NIPERNET and SIPERNET)

Jaime L. Maynard

Interesting point – many of the tools they are using are “DoD” versions of popular social media (their own video channel as opposed to only using YouTube, etc). That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does show that a lot of web 2.0 gets done in government…when there is sufficient funding.


I find it fascinating as well that in these large agencies there are huge competing forces. I’ve seen that in many agencies where one part is doing this fantastic project and the other side doesn’t even know about it. Or maybe would even shut it down if they heard about it.


Do you always believe everything that you read in the newspapers about your own agencies? I certainly don’t since it is usually only part of the story, especially if sensitive or classified information may be involved. I have been working with social media since 2005 and observing the Gov2.0 movement for the last year. While I understand the desire to break down walls and be more transparent and open, it is never that simple. There are many factors involved including the need to protect national security if that is part of your mission. But there are missions like public affairs and analytic outreach that are in contradiction with security and operations. Both are valid missions but it is critical that all parties engage in discussions on managing risks associated with social media and indeed any kind of information and communications technology. when dealing with national security there are many times when operational information must be protected and cannot be transparent. The same holds true for missions like law enforcement, health and so on. So DoD has internal networks with social media to do the missions needed to support national security defense. At the same time there has been a push to “let it all hang out” on popular internet applications like Twitter and Facebook. But there is a need to understand the risks to doing that and what elements need to be put in place to include training. If you look at the recent investigations like the GhostNet investigation by SecDev Group, that provides an exemplar of what could happen where trusted networks passed along malware as part of documents that then set up shop on over 1100 computers in over 100 countries and preceded to pass information back to sites in Taiwan and China. Imagine if something like that were to happen to sensitive government networks through trusted social media networks. After all do you “know” half the people who follow you? Do you “trust” them? You accept risks without understanding what might happen or how to mitigate the risk.

btw there is no such thing as a “social media or social networking czar” in DoD. Mr Floyd is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. That is one mission within DoD. There are also people charged with securing information within DoD. All organizations have some degree of opposing missions regardless of size. It doesn’t mean that they are necessarily out to do each other in. It just means that they prioritize their mission first and someone has to facilitate the two groups working together. It gets harder the larger the organization, but it is not impossible.

Jaime L. Maynard

In answer to your question, no I do not always believe what I read in the news about any agency, let alone my own. However, I do think it is important to keep current with what the media is saying about my agency and the government in general. Perception is reality for much of the general public. After the OGI conference, a couple DoD employees actually said to me they were surprised at how much DoD is doing in social media since they are not permitted to use any social media tools.

I agree completely that there are security concerns, and that transparency is never simple or easy. However, I also firmly believe that “security” has been used as an excuse to block far more than truly sensitive material, regardless of whether there is truly any risk or need to block it. Everything is “need to know” – if you need to know, we’ll tell you. Frankly, it is easier to say no than to put extra effort into sharing what we can and should. I think the public would trust and use the government more if security were the exception, and not the default especially when for social media that is such bread and butter for the generations coming. The fact is breaches like the one you mentioned can happen even to “secure” networks if talented hackers decide to go after it. No we shouldn’t make it easy. However, if we build a moat around all our information then the citizens who should be benefiting also are denied access. While listening to the speaker from the UK, one of the other panelists made a statement that was a little frightening, in the UK, the publis trusts the government and mistrusts large companies. In the US, we distrust our government and trust large companies. This article is one tiny piece of learning how to address that.

Henry Brown

IMO this is probably just the first of knee-jerk reactions.

From Wired.com

The U.S. Marine Corps has banned Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other social media sites from its networks, effective immediately.

“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,” reads a Marine Corps order, issued Monday. “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.”

The Marines’ ban will last a year. It was drawn up in response to a late July warning from U.S. Strategic Command, which told the rest of the military it was considering a Defense Department-wide ban on the Web 2.0 sites, due to network security concerns. Scams, worms, and Trojans often spread unchecked throughout social media sites, passed along from one online friend to the next. “The mechanisms for social networking were never designed for security and filtering. They make it way too easy for people with bad intentions to push malicious code to unsuspecting users,” a Stratcom source told Danger Room.

Yet many within the Pentagon’s highest ranks find value in the Web 2.0 tools. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has 4,000 followers on Twitter. The Department of Defense is getting ready to unveil a new home page, packed with social media tools. The Army recently ordered all U.S. bases to provide access to Facebook. Top generals now blog from the battlefield.

“OPSEC is paramount. We will have procedures in place to deal with that,” Price Floyd, the Pentagon’s newly-appointed social media czar, told Danger Room. “What we can’t do is let security concerns trump doing business. We have to do business… We need to be everywhere men and women in uniform are and the public is. If that’s MySpace and YouTube, that’s where we need to be, too.”

The Marines say they will issue waivers to the Web 2.0 blockade, if a “mission critical need” can be proven. And they will continue to allow access to the military’s internal “SNS-like services.” But for most members of the Corps, access to the real, public social networks is now shut off for the next year.

And Because of this being picked up by CNN

Suspect it shall get rather interesting

Henry Brown

The Air Force’s “responseIF I could improve this response would insure that the violators of the policy were in a rather public way reprimanded thereby insuring the awareness of the issue by maximum people

From Nextgov

A Social Network Happy Medium

By Bob Brewin 08/04/09 02:12 pm ET

Maj. Gen. Hank Morrow, commander of Air Force North, which is responsible for defending U.S. airspace, thinks a common sense approach to using social network sites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube can assure security that will allow service members to continue relying on the communications tools.

Morrow wrote last week that airmen need to understand that when they post messages to a social networking site the information is available not only to family and friends – who are typically the intended audience – but a potential enemy.

“The bad guys are out there watching us, too, reading all the information you post to your personal site, and what’s posted to your buddy’s site, and to the Air Force Chief of Staff’s site, and so on,” he said. “They put all the bits of information together like a puzzle. It’s known as data mining and our enemies are constantly monitoring what we post to the Web.”

Airmen need to exercise prudence in what they post, keeping operational security in mind when, for example, they write from a deployed location, Morrow said. He suggested that troops apply the acronym SAPP, which stands for security, accuracy, policy and privacy, before posting to a social network site.

“The SAPP principle is an easy one to remember when you’re about to blog about an upcoming deployment or a recent court martial in your unit or the rumor you heard in the squadron break room,” Morrow wrote. “Is the information accurate? Can you back it up with facts? Are you compromising operational security by releasing this information? Are you violating someone’s privacy by blogging about him or her?” Those are all good reminders before hitting the send button.

Finally, before posting a photo or comment on a social networking site, he reminded his personnel, “Anything you post to the Internet — including photos — will be there forever. Do you really want to post a picture of yourself that could place you, your family, or your unit in harm’s way?” Morrow asked.

“Think before you post,” he concluded, “and if you are ever in doubt about what you are about to let the world see or read about — delete it. Go with your instincts. Refer back to my rule number one — use your common sense.”

Henry Brown

I would GUESS that perhaps there might be a bit of fur flying in the highest corners of the Pentagon. It would appear to me that just maybe the head of IT security for the marine corps MIGHT have not fully vented his plan to disable social networking and there PROBABLY will be some significant back pedaling”

From Nextgov

Head of Joint Chiefs bucks social media ban in a Tweet

By Bob Brewin 08/05/2009

While the Marine Corps banned the use of social networking sites on Tuesday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a budding Tweeter, strongly backed the use of the social networking site in a message he posted on Twitter.

“Obviously we need to find right balance between security and transparency,” Adm. Mike Mullen Tweeted after the Marine Corps said it would ban social networking sites. “We are working on that. But am I still going to tweet? You bet.”

Last month the Defense Department kicked off a study to determine the vulnerabilities of social networking sites and Web 2.0 technologies such as Facebook and Twitter.

Navy Capt. John Kirby, Mullen’s spokesman, said, “The chairman is committed to find a way to use social media while ensuring operational security.”

Mullen, who also has a Facebook page, believes that social network sites help Defense engage in a dialogue with audiences at home and abroad. Mullen believes “we cannot afford to ignore this way [social network sites] of communicating with people,” Kirby said.

Kirby said he expected Defense’s study on use of social networking tools and technologies to be completed within a month.

Twitter.com Mullen’s message was posted Wednesday.

Other top commanders who have posted a personal Facebook page include Army Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, and Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commanding general of the III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, said Lindy Kyzer, an Army spokeswoman who works in the online and social media division.

In a blog item posted on Tuesday, Kyzer summarized the conflicts between security and open access. “The popularity of social networking sites and sheer volume of information posted and traded can send shudders down the spines of any signal company soldier or network security expert,” she wrote. “But many of those security experts realize that a collaborative Web is the new reality. Soon you’ll be hard-pressed to find any site on the World Wide Web that isn’t implementing Web 2.0 tools and technology.

“Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have already been battling the issue of access to their work computers for years. . . . Our soldiers have been working around the access issues — and will continue to do so — regardless of whether or not we don’t have access at our work computers. So, again, I want open access. But, I also want a lively debate that takes into consideration the security concerns, but balances them with the need to do our jobs to tell the Army’s story in every platform and via every tool available.”

Adm. Thad Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard, also has posted a Facebook page and opened a Twitter account. The Coast Guard allows its personnel to post to social networking sites from their computers, said Lt. Connie Braesch, the service’s social media action officer.

Like the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard expects service members to not compromise security or classified information when they post messages on social network sites, she said.

Asked if Defense can stuff the social network genie back into the bottle, Kirby said, “I have a news flash for you: The Internet is here to stay.”

Henry Brown

PERHAPS MAYBE they still haven’t got it right…
If All this “NOISE” is about is provide a better recruiting environment MAYBE PERHAPS there could be found other ways to address that issue…

In contrast to a ban on US Marines from using Twitter and Facebook on the military network, Britain’s Ministry of Defence has told troops they’re free to use social media tools and should apply “common sense” when deciding what to share online.

What’s more, the MOD has said it will sponsor soldiers who want to use blogs and Twitter to share stories of military life with the outside world.

The unclassified memo is available here and reads, in part:

1. Service and MOD civilian personnel are encouraged to talk about what they do, but within certain limits to protect security, reputation and privacy. An increasingly important channel for this engagement, and to keep in touch with family and friends is social media (such as social networking sites, blogs and other internet self-publishing). Personnel may make full use of these but must:

Follow the same high standards of conduct and behaviour online as would be expected elsewhere;
Always maintain personal, information and operational security and be careful about the information they share online;
Get authorisation from their chain of command when appropriate (see para 2 below);

2. Service and MOD civilian personnel do not need to seek clearance when talking online about factual, unclassified, uncontroversial non-operational matters, but should seek authorisation from their chain of command before publishing any wider information relating to their work which:

Relates to operations or deployments;
Offers opinions on wider Defence and Armed Forces activity, or on third parties without their permission; or
Attempts to speak, or could be interpreted as speaking, on behalf of your Service or the MOD; or,
Relates to controversial, sensitive or political matters.

Online Presences “Encouraged”

Perhaps the most surprising section, however, is the MOD’s support of social media tools in communicating with the world. The section reads: “Service and MOD civilian personnel are encouraged to operate sponsored online presences to help communicate their work, including as part of their official duties, as long as these are authorised in advance”.

In fact, the wording of the document is wildly opposite to the US Marines’ order issued this week, which essentially ruled out the use of all social media tools on the DOD network. The MOD memo instead focuses on the need to “harness new and emerging technologies, new unofficial online channels, and new unofficial online content in order to communicate and disseminate defence and Service messages and build defence and Service reputation”.

It’s a policy that’s likely to earn praise from bloggers, and could foster a positive brand image for the British military. What’s more, starting online conversations about military life might also help with recruitment to the armed forces.

Henry Brown

DIRECTLY from AF.mil and AFTER the original “story” broke…

Now I know that DOD is a rather large agency and the original story was from a NON-DOD agency (wired.com) but this perhaps points out a much larger problem with communication(s) within the federal government


Air Force Office of Scientific Research officials launch social media outreach

Air Force Office of Scientific Research officials here announced Aug. 7 the launch of two new pages on Facebook and Twitter.

To follow AFOSR on each site, type “AFOSR” in the search box on each page.

The new AFOSR Facebook and Twitter pages will provide real-time information on AFOSR stories, accomplishments, scientific breakthroughs and events. In addition, postings will include announcements and deadlines for funding opportunities and awards programs worth millions of dollars.

“AFOSR sponsors innovative and cutting edge technologies that revolutionize and shape the future of the Air Force. It seems only fitting that we approach our communications and new media the same way we approach science,” said Dr. Brendan Godfrey, the AFOSR director.

To learn more about AFOSR, visit http://www.afosr.af.mil or on their new Facebook and Twitter pages.

Henry Brown

MEA CULPA! Glad to see that this story is finally dying! Although one could wonder why DOD didn’t do some what better of a job communicating!

From Next.gov

Marines and Social Nets: We Goofed

By Bob Brewin 08/07/09 05:27 pm ET

Despite more than 1,000 news reports to the contrary, the Marine Corps did NOT ban access to social network sites this week.

In fact, in a statement, the Marine Corps said, “Marines are encouraged to tell their stories on social networking sites, using personal accounts, remembering the importance of operational security and that they are Marines at all times.”

So, how did news sites around the world, including Nextgov, erroneously report the Marines had banned access to sites such as such as Twitter, YouTube and MySpace?

The simple answer is that the collective “we” — myself and all the other digit stained wretches who reported on the supposed ban — were guilty of herd mentality, following and believing the Associated Press story linked above.

I erred by believing the story and not picking up the phone to call the Marine Corps public affairs office, which quickly provided me with the facts.

This reinforced two things I know, but momentarily forgot this week: Never believe anything I read unless I check it out and that even in the digital media age, a plain old phone call is still the best way to gather information.

As Marine spokesman Lt. Craig Thomas explained to me, the AP misconstrued the meaning of the Marine administrative instruction issued on Aug 3, which reinforced a longstanding directive released by the Defense Information Systems Agency in 2007 banning access to social Web sites on Defense networks to conserve bandwidth for operational requirements.

The instruction issued on Monday, he said, actually made it easier for Marines whose jobs require access to social nets to get waivers to use Defense nets to connect with Twitter, YouTube etc. Folks who need to use Defense networks to access social Web sites in performance of their duties include public affairs officers, recruiters and criminal investigators, Thomas said.

All other Marines can “absolutely” express themselves on social media, as long as they don’t do so over a Defense network, he added.

So, once again, “we” in the media goofed big time on this story, and the next time I won’t wait three days before making the fact check phone call