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NEWS | Feb. 3, 2015

Service members encouraged to practice proper protocol online

By Airman 1st Class Areca T. Wilson 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As more U.S. Service members continue to turn to social media to stay connected with friends and family, their responsibility to portray a professional military image remains.

Though social media enables users to share life moments, build relationships, connect with family members and share personal views, it can also negatively affect those who do not practice proper etiquette online.

Exhibiting unprofessional behavior online can adversely affect not only a Service member's career but also the military's professional image. For this reason, they are encouraged to think before they post.

According to the U.S. Air Force Social Media Guide, Service members need to consider what they're posting, and the message they're sending before they click "submit." Once something is posted online, there's no way to take it back. It can be deleted, but even in a short amount of time, others who see the information could copy or screenshot that post, and spread it across the internet. Depending on what the Service member posts, it could be potentially damaging to themselves, the military and even their families.

Simply thinking before posting online can help Service members avoid being held responsible if their post defies the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If a Service member is found in contempt, offenders can receive an Article 88, Contempt toward officials; Article 89, Disrespect toward superior commissioned officer; and Article 91, Insubordinate conduct toward a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer or petty officer--and more.

Though users may opt to use privacy settings to control who can see what they post, it is important to remember not to heavily rely on such settings.

Although most social media platforms may offer privacy settings, and Service members may want to share photos, their personal feelings and daily happenings with their "friends," they should remain vigilant and refrain from trusting such features.

Service members should abstain from posting derogatory comments about the military, photos of misconduct and any information, which may affect operational security, including deployments or sensitive objects and areas. The best rule of thumb to use when posting on social media is "if you have any doubts, leave it out."

Advising Service members to be careful in how they use social media isn't to censor or take their voice away, but rather to protect them, their families, friends and the military from threats. Posting too much information about your whereabouts, travel plans, details about military operations, or statements that are derogatory in nature or defamatory of the military are all examples of behavior that could compromise a Service member's safety and security, the safety of military members, and could lead to disciplinary action.

Below are additional tips provided by the U.S. Army Social Media Handbook and the Air Force Social Media Guide:

- Do not post classified information, sensitive or For Official Use Only information
- Discuss only areas where you have first-hand or personal experiences
- Do not post any offensive or illegal information or material
- Obey applicable laws
- Do not post anything that would discredit the Armed Forces
- When expressing your views, differentiate between opinion and official information
- Do not post personal information of others
- Respectfully replace error with fact when you see misrepresentations made about the military in social media
- Do not use your branch's name to endorse or promote products, political positions or religious ideologies
Service members must continue to adhere to and educate themselves on guidelines in order to maintain a professional military image while interacting online.

For more information about social media etiquette, visit for the Air Force Social Media Guide or for the U.S. Army Social Media Handbook.

Airmen and Soldiers can also reference Air Force Instruction 1-1 and Army Regulation 600-50.