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DoD launches ‘Social Media Hub'

Dec. 8, 2009 - 01:40PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 8, 2009 - 01:40PM  |  
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When a group of young Navy officers posted their spot-on remake of "Saturday Night Live's" insta-classic "I'm on a Boat" to YouTube, they might have found a few guidelines on the Defense Department's new "Social Media Hub" (socialmedia.defense.gov) useful. Like: It's not a good idea to post something your boss might find embarrassing for the whole world to watch.

While the Pentagon's rules for Web 2.0 enthusiasts are still on the drawing board, the new site is designed to pull together the services' many online efforts while providing troops with fresh guidelines on Internet do's and don'ts.

The hub offers special sections for each service, as well as registration tools for official sites and tips for deployed troops.

"If you want to stay in the know, sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube cannot be avoided," gushes Senior Airman Mary Dever as she and New Media Director Katie Ingebretson explain how to use the sites. The basic message: Use common sense.

Some are not exactly impressed.

"Clearly the Official policy isn't ready to publish, but . . . [Defense officials] just use a catchall in the meantime," writes J.P. Borda on his Milblogging site.

Although the hub tries desperately to bring the fun — "Spam Scam Slam" and 11 other flash games — the site sometimes feels like more of a funsucker.

"Due to the active presence of terrorists, criminals, and foreign intelligence services, you must be careful about what and how much information you make available online so that you do not become a victim, put others in harm's way, or reveal sensitive Department of Defense information" reads one section.

"There has been a real emphasis on [operational security], that somehow al-Qaida is reading your Twitter feed," says Wired Magazine's Danger Room blog editor Noah Shachtman. "I think it's a little bit of a convenient dodge to the somewhat more stickier issues. By focusing on the security issues, it's an easy way to not talk about the real hard things when soldiers use social media."

Indeed, the site sometimes raises more questions than it answers. And while there are the usual "stay in your lane" admonishments, there are occasional gems as well. "No one wants to know when you're going to the bathroom, even if you're a General Officer," quips the Army's guidelines on Twitter.

Related reading

The rise and fall of a military blogger

Facebook face-off: Services squabble over future of social media

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