Read beyond the “Marines ban Twitter…” headline

Articles like this one with the headline ‘Marines Ban Twitter, Facebook, MySpace" have been doing the rounds in the media. But it’s important to read beyond the headline. Because if you just read headlines you end up with a really distorted picture of the world. (You always did but I’d suggest it’s even worse in the era of Search Engine Optimisation.)   

Yes, the US Marines did ban Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace from being used on their own military network. But the end of that sentence – their own military network – is rather important as Blackfive and this blogging Marine have demonstrated. 

It does seem reasonable for operational security reasons to not allow Marines to use these sites on the same computers that they are accessing sensitive military information. Blackfive also highlights considerations of bandwidth and productivity.

But this doesn’t mean the Marine Corps is going to disappear from social media. (At least not yet.) Indeed, what some have described as a ‘blanket ban‘ has a provision to allow certain personnel to apply for a waiver to use social networking sites.

Lieutenant Craig Thomas, a spokesman for the Marine Corps, told AFP that Marines working on criminal investigations, press relations and recruiting need to use social media and would usually be granted access.

So I would still expect to find MarineCorpsNews on Twitter in the future. And Marines will still be able to access these sites on their own computers and recreational computers at military bases.

That’s not to say there isn’t a story here. While Lt Thomas said that "social networking sites have always been banned from government computers", US Strategic Command is nevertheless reviewing social media policy on Defense Department computers.

It seems rather strange to carry out a review unless there is something to review – like potentially significant security breaches on DoD computers or serious concerns about the possibility of hackers gaining access to sensitive information through social media sites.