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If U.S. Soldiers Can Access Facebook, Who Can’t?

by Andrea Di Maio  |  June 14, 2009  |  6 Comments

A U.S. Army order issued on May 18th permits access to five social media sites (Facebook, Flickr, Delicious, Twitter and Vimeo) within the continental U.S. Further, links to those pages will be placed on the Army web site Army.mil.

The order says that

… the intent of senior Army leaders to leverage social media as a medium to allow soldiers to ‘tell the Army story’ and to facilitate the dissemination of strategic, unclassified information …. the social media sites available from the Army homepage will be made accessible from all campus area networks. Additionally, all web-based email will be made accessible.

Although bases overseas are not covered by this order, and some other sites like YouTube or MySpace remain banned (although the former is referenced from the U.S. Army site), this constitutes a very important step. Whether this is simply part of a more modern communication strategy by the Army or a way to let soldiers maintain links with their friends and families, it will be quite difficult now for civilian agencies at all levels of government to deny access.

Last Friday I had an inquiry with the information security officer in a state agency that currently bans all social media: the governor has been pressuring to give all employees access to several of these sites, but they had been able to resist while assessing security risks and developing a policy. The client told me that after the latest news from the Army there is little they can do, but comply.

Category: social-networks-in-government  

Tags: facebook  twitter  us-army  youtube  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
15 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies strategies, Web 2.0, open government, cloud computing, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio


Thoughts on If U.S. Soldiers Can Access Facebook, Who Can’t?


  1. Paolo says:

    To me this all sounds like US Army’s advertising tactics.

    At any rate, for growing categories of professionals and workers, the line between “home” and “work” has vanished, and carrying out a job means fulfilling objectives and reaching goals (in my personal case, this has been true since 1982). In those cases, where on the web or on the earth people spend their time is totally irrelevant.

    Unfortunately, though, it yet isn’t so for large numbers (in fact, the majority) of workers.
    And I feel uneasy about the notion of banking staff or government health care folks or policemen or teachers spending work hours posting their children photos on Facebook or twittering their [mostly irrelevant] whereabouts, perhaps with the company’s mobile.

    Just because we have social networking, and because it can sometimes be a powerful business tool, it does not mean that we should let all employees play with it during work hours.
    Think, by similarity, to the music/film downloading story: from the fact that there are easy ways to steal intellectual property, it does not mean it’s cool or savvy to go steal.

  2. Paolo, I do not believe social media create different issues than those already experienced with fixed or mobile phones, email, Internat access, reading the newspaper at your desk, chatting with colleagues in front of a coffee, and so forth. Channels change but the issue of fair use and productivity remains a management concern, which won’t be resolved by a simple ban.
    In fact there are examples of policies for social media use that simply recall the civil servant’s cose of conduct (see my earlier post at https://blogs.gartner.com/andrea_dimaio/2009/06/01/a-no-nonsense-guide-for-government-employees-on-social-networks/).

  3. Paolo says:

    Uhm, weak argument, IMHO. The fact that there are other ways to waste time and mind does not mean we should rush to find new ones.

  4. You must really be a fan of the Italian Minister for Public Service who is all for banning Facebook and the likes (see my previous post on this). I think similar conversations were taking place many years ago about opening access to the Internet or to external email, and we all know what the outcome was.

  5. […] allowing access to five social media sites (including Facebook and Twitter), which I covered in a previous post. It looks like positions across the DoD are different, but some commentators say that the U.S. […]



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