It wouldn’t come as a shock that the military might be skittish about social media, but some branches are surprisingly forward-thinking—namely, the Air Force, whose “Web Posting Response Assessment” is often used as a best-in-class example of how to manage negative conversations in the blogosphere.
Not so much with the Marines, though. Cyberspace was all a-Twitter with comments surrounding the Corps’ recent decision to ban social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace from its networks for one year.
“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, August 3, 2009. “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.”
This is all true, with one very significant exception: A social media ban in no way correlates to reduced risk—if anything, it will make these “malicious actors” more inclined to try their hand at infiltrating virtual protective walls.
Instead of digging a cyber spider hole in which to hide, I would argue that the Marines would have been profoundly better off had they chosen to develop and implement a very careful social media policy. After all, this is the very safeguard put in place by dozens of the most risk-averse companies in the business world—that is, once they realized that avoidance would hurt, not help, their cause.
Or, am I being unreasonable to judge the Marines’ decision? My grandfather was a Marine Corps Capitan in the Korean War but, aside from war stories told by surviving relatives, that is my one and only window into the military. I’d like to pose the question to readers: The Marine Corps is justified in banning social media use for the stated reasons—yay or nay?
By Courtney Barnes
PS–Check out the August 10, 2009, issue of PR News, in which a new feature called “PR Advisers” debuts. In the first installation, four communications experts weigh in on social media policy must-haves. Definitely check it out, and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to submit a question for consideration.