27 SOW social media: pitfalls of social media

(Courtesy illustration)

(Courtesy illustration)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- This feature is second in a series of social media related stories.
 
According to a March 2011 poll by Internet World Stats, more than 2 billion people use the internet - that's nearly a third of the world's population. Because of this widespread use, social networking has become a valuable method of obtaining critical information and the latest news.

It is ultimately the job of Public Affairs professionals to teach and enforce new social media policy to all Air Commandos at Cannon Air Force Base.

No longer are only reporters disseminating information to the masses. Reporters get much of their content from monitoring blogs, YouTube, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Nearly anyone with a cell phone and camera is a potential reporter.

Most utilize social networking sites to connect with people and friends we already know. There are individuals however, that use these sites to gain information they wouldn't otherwise be able to access, potentially at our expense. The Air Force SAP Security Bulletin has information on how to safeguard yourself when communication online as well as a breakdown of the types of information you should protect.

Air Commandos must keep in mind that every time they engage in social media, they are representing their base and the Air Force. They should avoid doing anything that could potentially discredit themselves or their service branch.

Here are a few examples of how social media has been ineffectively used by military members in recent situations:

In 2006, an Airman stationed in Japan decided to throw frogs into an F-16 jet engine which he videotaped and then posted on his MySpace page. Even though this was his page, the information did not stay private. Within six months, the media found the video and news stories were published about it.

In 2011, a training squadron from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, had a photograph surface of an Airman chained in a casket and surrounded by junior enlisted and non-commissioned officers. The photograph fueled controversy regarding how the Air Force disposed of the remains of fallen service members.

These acts did not represent the high standards set by the Air Force. However, as people read of these incidents, they became a black mark on the force.

Airmen have the right to voice their opinions and express themselves. However, they must realize they are on duty 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year and are always subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Air Commandos are never "off the record." They must always represent the core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all they do. Do not post information that could potentially endanger the life of another Airman by making sensitive or private information public and easy to obtain.

Several operational security threats to consider are: information regarding deployed locations, dates of travel, and force and aircraft numbers.

Here are some tips on how to properly engaging in social media:
  • Don't give classified information - if something is questionable, ask your security manager or Public Affairs office.
  • Stay in your lane - replace errors with facts, not arguments.
  • Don't lie - admit mistakes, credibility is critical.
  • Be aware of the image you present - avoid the offensive, and use proper judgment.
  • Do not endorsements - don't use the Air Force name to promote products or opinions.
For a more detailed guide on how to communicate effectively online, check out New Media and the Air Force which includes a list of popular social media sites, top 10 tips for new media, and blogging guidance.

For specific Operational Security questions, please contact the 27th Special Operations Wing OPSEC manager at 784-0715.

Part three of the series, "Dependents: A crucial part of the conversation," will address how spouses and family members can use these tools to get information and connect with others in the same situation.