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Marines lift social media ban

By WARREN PEACE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 31, 2010

STUTTGART, Germany — The Marine Corps lifted its ban on social media sites Monday, allowing Marines from Japan to the States to sign on to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and other sites.

But it looks like European-based Marines — along with other troops in Europe — will have to wait a little longer: As of Tuesday, servicemembers in Europe were still unable to log onto the sites from their government computers.

The Defense Department had lifted the ban on social networking sites in late February, but Army and Air Force officials in Europe said earlier this month they were trying to determine the best way to proceed.

“Local commanders still have to weigh security risk and bandwidth issues in their area of operation,” Chris Joseph, a spokesman for U.S. Army Europe’s 5th Signal Command said at the time.

The day after the Marines reversed their position, one official spoke about maintaining a transparency with the American public.

“This is a new way to keep the public informed about the Corps,” said Gunnery Sgt. Chanin Nuntavong, a Marine Corps spokesman. “We understand Marines are the best spokesmen for the Corps and understand they play an important role in telling the Marine Corps story.”

But that doesn’t mean everything on the Web is now accessible. The new policy says supervisors may restrict the use of these sites and Marines still must adhere to policies concerning material with adult, racist or illegal content. Furthermore, Marines are prohibited from using Marine Corps symbols such as the eagle, globe and anchor on the Web in a manner that could discredit the Corps.

And operational security must be taken into account.

“Unlike organizations that block access to social networking for financial or resource reasons, compromises to the Marine Corps’ Enterprise Network raises serious issues for protecting the safety and lives of our Marines,” Maj. Gen. George J. Allen, director of Command, Control, Communications and Computers for the Marine Corps, said in a prepared statement. “We do have a responsibility to ensure that we use the internet in a responsible way.”

Troops serving in Iraq are able to access social networking sites from Morale, Welfare, and Recreation tents at bases in the country, but not on government computers, officials said.

Some Marines are also concerned that the new policy may impact productivity levels.

“I think it’s a good idea, but it hasn’t been long enough to gauge the impact of this decision,” said Okinawa-based Marine Staff Sgt. Andrew D. Pendracki, who allows Marines under him to access the sites only during off hours, like lunch time.

“Unless strictly monitored by the supervisor, access to social networking sites will be a problem,” Pendracki said. “Marines get bored at work sitting in front of a computer, so they hop on and check it really quick. Before you know it, you have four or five Marines checking it really quick.”


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