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Military considers ban on Twitter, Facebook

WASHINGTON — Defense officials are looking into a military-wide ban on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook because of security concerns related to the Internet portals.

Tim Madden, spokesman for U.S. Strategic Command’s task force on network operations, said the ban is “under consideration” but no further decisions have been made. Last week, his office distributed a memo to commands worldwide asking for feedback on such a ban on the military’s NIPRNet, the Defense Department’s unsecured computer network.

On Thursday, Wired Magazine’s Danger Room blog broke news of the memo, which states the sites could make the military’s networks easy targets for hackers. They also reported frustration among many defense officials who have been pushing the social networking tools as critical for the services’ public relations and recruiting.

Earlier this year, Army officials ordered network managers at 81 U.S. locations to unblock Web sites such as Facebook, Flickr and Twitter as part of an effort to standardize access to the popular social networking tools.

Last month, the staff of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen unveiled his new Facebook page, and he told reporters that Pentagon leaders should know and understand more about popular Internet sites their subordinates are using.

But Madden said the inquiry into blocking the sites isn’t a rejection of those ideas, but instead simply part of ongoing reviews of security and safety protocols.

“We’re always looking at ways to protect the network,” he said.

In May 2007, STRATCOM officials blocked access from official government computers to 13 sites, including MySpace and YouTube. At the time, officials said those moves were designed to stop the heavy drain the media-intensive sites put on the military network.

Any changes implemented by the command likely would not affect Internet cafes or home Internet connections at base housing, both of which are usually linked to an outside, private service provider.

But computers in all military offices, and troops in Iraq and Afghanistan at bases whose only Internet access is through the NIPRNet, would be affected.

Madden could not give a timeline for when a decision might be made, or provide details of what reaction officials have received to the news so far.


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