By Cara Garretson
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) says it plans to allow employees to use social networking sites and other interactive Web applications on its non-classified network, with some limitations.
Last week, the DoD said its non-classified network would be configured to provide access to "Internet-based capabilities across all DoD components." The announcement of the new policy was accompanied by a reminder that commanders and heads of all DoD components should continue to fight against malicious activity on military networks; deny any access to sites that contain prohibited content such as gambling, pornography, and hate-crime related activities; and take action to safeguard missions when appropriate by limiting Internet access for security reasons or due to bandwidth limitations.
The reason for the new policy is the recognition that Internet activities including social networks have become essential tools for operating and collaborating across organizations and with the public, said the Defense Department. In addition, the DoD is taking the opportunity to standardize the Internet access policy across its components, which up until this point has been somewhat inconsistent.
"This directive recognizes the importance of balancing appropriate security measures while maximizing the capabilities afforded by 21st century Internet tools," said Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III.
The directive, found here, defines "Internet-based capabilities" as collaborative tools such as social-networking services and software, user-generated content, e-mail, instant messaging and discussion forums. As examples the directive lists YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Google Apps, as well as wikis, blogs, and data mashups.
It also states that DoD employees using these outlets are acting in their official capacities and therefore must be sure that both public affairs and operations security staff are aware of their activities. Posts should be relevant and accurate, the directive continues, but should not contain any information that isn't approved for public release, nor any personally identifiable information. When a personal opinion is expressed by a DoD employee via social media, a disclaimer must accompany it, the directive states.
Heads of Defense components are charged with educating, training and promoting awareness among employees for the safe and responsible use of these Internet-based tools.
Late last week the DoD also launched its own Social Media Hub, created by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. The hub integrates blog posts, a Twitter feed, video clips, comments and other information, as well as games such as "Friend Finder" and "ID Theft Face Off" that let users practice making friends online and protecting their identity from theft.
The new site also lists guidelines for social media usage.
"The Department of Defense's success with social networking and social media will depend upon every servicemember, civilian employee, family member, friend, and contractor using these tools wisely," reads the Social Media Hub's 'about' page.
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