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After Marine Photo Scandal, Services Issue Of Social Media Guidelines

The AMERICAN military leaders sent guidance to staff about the online behavior in the wake of a recent nude-photo sharing scandal on social media.

The Navy, the air force and the Army have sent messages on the occasion of the Marine Corps’ lead after the news broke that the Marines were parts of naked and compromising photos of female colleagues on a 30,000-member of the Facebook page with the name Marines-United.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service launched an investigation earlier this month in the site members, is used to post revealing and sometimes nude photos of the Marines; identifiable information, such as names and duty stations; and degrading and misogynistic comments.

Critics and lawmakers have pointed to an ingrained sexism and misogyny in the Corps, which is now integrating women into combat roles.

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Commander Gen. Robert Neller sent a “White Letter” on March 10 to all leaders in the service, ordering them to support self-identified victims of Facebook harassment and illegal sharing photos, and to educate troops on what is expected of them in their online behaviour.

To prevent the future of social media fallout, Neller said, the Marines need to be trained, not only on the service that the expectations for their online behavior, but also about the risks and vulnerabilities inherent in online activities.

The Corps will soon publish an update to the 2010 guidelines on the Marines, “the social media activity for this purpose,” he said.

The Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson wrote in a March 14 blog post in which all the commanders fleetwide about the problem.

“The discovery of the online sites that detract from the female members of our team has shone a light on the fact that this problem persists. But we get reminders of each day, if we have a lack of respect of women by the crude jokes, wisecracks, sexual harassment, and in the worst case manifestation, sexual assault — a serious violent crime. Despite a steady effort to get after that we are not making progress,” Richardson wrote.

“This degrading activity offends so many of us, because fundamentally, this is not how we deal with real teammates.”

Richardson said that he expected that all commanding officers to rise to the challenge of the command, the leaders at the small-team level, “responsibility center managers and leaders to talk to their divisions, branches and speak to the branches.”

“Talk about what respect for our colleagues seems to be at work, at home and online. Make it clear that persons who do not meet our professional standards in competence and character are not welcome in our Navy.

“To make clear that our standards call us to a higher commitment than the law — we are better than that. And finally, I expect you to make it crystal clear that it remains the world’s most powerful Navy, we should be 100% focused on staying ahead of our competition, which starts with leadership and cooperation, based on trust and respect.”

Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein directed all pilots about the recent scandal in a March 10 statement.

“People are the foundation of our air force. Our mutual support for each other is based on dignity, respect, and trust … a Wingman culture. As Wingmen, we must continually demonstrate courage and strength of character to do and say the right things, at the right times, to protect each other … there is no other acceptable option,” Goldfein wrote.

“When Pilots do not adhere to our core values — Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in Everything We Do-the reputation of serve, and served have, been compromised. These values are applicable to the behavior on the social media. Any conduct or participation in activities, whether online or offline, which does not conform to these core values is NOT acceptable.

“From our newest airman basic to the chief of staff, we are all responsible for compliance with ethical and standards of our actions. We live our core values every day … in and out of duty.”

Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the air force Kaleth Wright also brought a similar message on video 17 March.

The Army sent its social media guidelines in a letter dated 17 March and signed by the acting Secretary of the Army Robert Spear, chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, and Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey.

The letter calls on the soldiers and the Army of citizens to treat each other with dignity and respect.

“Recent misconduct on social media has us deeply affected military community,” the letter states.

“We are all the digits of the confidence of the public and our behavior must be exemplary. They stood shoulder to shoulder with fellow soldiers at the reception stations by means of a basic training, AIT, and the control of the deployments, builds trust, that is forever weakened, or erased when a fellow soldier is the victim of disparaging and demeaning comments in person or posted on the social media.

“The assumption of anonymity on social media is false. Active participation and passive tolerance of online misconduct as destructive to the fundamental trust essential to our ability to decisively fight and win the Nation’s wars.”

The letter refers to the leaders of the team level up to “talk and show what respect looks like at work, at home and online.”

“We expect that military and civilian personnel comply with AR 600-20, Army Command Policy, and the Army of the Online Policy, which together state that harassment, bullying, hazing, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, or any other form of misconduct are contrary to the Army Values,” said the letter.

— Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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