U.S. servicemen and women will now have more access to popular social networking and media sharing websites that were previously banned from military servers. A review of a policy that has blocked sites like Facebook and YouTube since 2007 has been changed to permit use of social media among military personnel.
The new policy requires all military units to provide access to social networking sites. Commanders will be able to restrict access in some cases, but only on a temporary basis. The military permits discretion to “continue to defend against malicious activity,” meaning there’s still room for individual commanders to rationalize banning certain activities that are prohibited or a threat to security (geolocation being the most obvious example). However, the default policy will open up new opportunities for military personnel to use the net for more communication services. The Army had previously banned YouTube and the Marines had restricted other social networking websites.
On a personal note, I’m very glad to see this policy change. My brother served in Iraq and it was very difficult to rely on phone calls to communicate with him. I often fielded calls from my worried mother asking if I’d heard from him, so it was reassuring to be able to drop a line to him via Facebook or see photos that he uploaded to MySpace while on leave. His time for these types of activities was severely limited, so I hope the new policy will make it easier for those in service to communicate with their family and friends.