While the Pentagon studies the vulnerabilities of social networking sites, the United Kingdom's Defence Ministry issued a policy on Thursday that encouraged its troops to "blog, Tweet and engage online."
According to the Online Engagement Guidelines, U.K. troops "can make full use of Web sites such as Facebook and YouTube as long as they follow the same high standards of conduct and behavior online as would be expected elsewhere; always maintain personal information and operational security and be careful about the information they share online; and, get authorization from their chain of command when appropriate."
The Defence Ministry added that troops and civilian workers could post to social networking sites without prior authorization as long as they adhere to the guidelines on operational security and online behavior. The policy, touted in a Defence blog, represents "an important change over earlier rules, under which personnel always needed to seek authorization before publishing any work-related material," the ministry said.
The ministry released the new policy just days after the Pentagon announced it would study how social networking threatened security, with the intention of developing a new Web 2.0 strategy.
Shortly after the Pentagon announcement, it was reported that the U.S. Marine Corps had banned the use of social media. But the Corps has not prohibited its personnel from using their own computers to access or post to social network sites, said Lt. Craig Thomas, a spokesman for the Marines. The Corps has "absolutely not" banned access to sites such as YouTube, MySpace or Twitter, he said.
The Marine Corps issued an administrative instruction this week clarifying a policy for the entire Defense Department in May 2007. The policy, issued by the Defense Information Systems Agency, barred the use of department networks to access social networking sites because of the demand on limited bandwidth.
The instruction actually relaxed the 2007 policy, allowing organizations or personnel whose jobs or missions require access to social network Web sites to request a waiver to use Marine networks to do so, Thomas said.
He said recruiters, public affairs personnel and criminal investigators all need to access social network sites as part of their official duties. Other Marines can continue use their personal computers connected to non-Defense networks to access social network sites. Marines deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq can use non-Defense networks in those countries to post to social Web sites.
The Marine Corp issued a statement that similar to the United Kingdom, it embraced social networking. "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," the statement said.