By Michael Madrid
The Pentagon officially released its first-ever department-wide social media policy. The policy details specific military social media rules for all military departments, including high-ranking individuals of the defense community. Let’s look at some of the nuanced rules and stipulations of the policy.

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DOD Military Social Media Rules

The 27-page DOD Instruction 5400.17, formally titled “Official Use of Social Media for Public Affairs Purposes,” details principles relating to social media use within the DOD. While many of you may have received social media training for the military, such as the DODI 8170.01, “Online Information Management and Electronic Messaging,” the new policy is the Pentagon’s first department-wide social media policy. According to Andy Oare, director of digital media for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, “There have been efforts in the past to do this, but in an organization of this size and magnitude, you need to fully coordinate and ensure all viewpoints are heard and represented. We wanted to make sure the services were collaborators from the very beginning.” The difference between the new and older policies is that the new one primarily focuses on public affairs uses and responsibilities. In contrast, the DODI 8170.01 provides a broad overview of guidance on the safe and appropriate use of social media.

Military Social Media Usage

Many of you may wonder, “Will the new policy affect me?” Well, yes. According to the DOD’s policy, it applies to the Office of the Secretary of Defense personnel, the military departments, the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Staff, the combatant commands, and other DOD offices and agencies. In short, the military social media policy lays some groundwork for DOD personnel who primarily use social media to generate content. It’s not a set of definitive rules for service members, but it does lay down a couple of common-sense practices. Although the policy has been rolled out, many questions are still being asked, so updates and changes to the policy remain up for debate. One of the many dilemmas the policy doesn’t have an answer for is whether or not it’s tolerable for service members to receive monetary compensation on TikTok and YouTube while in uniform. Furthermore, it doesn’t answer whether or not it’s acceptable to include rank in personal accounts.

Can Military Personnel Have Social Media?

Yes, military personnel are still allowed to own both official social media accounts and personal social media accounts. On the other hand, for personnel/official social media accounts, which are known as external official presence or EOPs, you must abide by more strict stipulations. One of these conditions relates to political views and opinions. According to the policy, “engaging in political activity on official DOD social media and EOP platforms is prohibited.” The policy goes on to explain that service members “may not engage in political activity, on their personal social media, while in the Federal workplace or while on-duty including while teleworking.” Andy Oare stated, “Our aim is not to be prescriptive or restrictive, but rather to lay out some common-sense rules that simply have not been formally articulated at this level… In a digital world where lines of truth and authenticity are so often blurred, it’s important that institutions like us have trusted, verifiable and reliable presences.”

The Future of Military Social Media Policies

As stated above, the lines are blurred regarding what is acceptable and not acceptable to post on official and personal social media accounts. While not everything is set in stone right now, military social media rules will continue to be updated as more questions are asked.

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