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Guard Bureau offers social media guidelines for Guardsmen

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
  • National Guard Bureau
National Guard members need to know that even though a new DoD policy authorizes them to use many of the social media and other Web 2.0 platforms available on a non-classified government computer, there are consequences for misuse of them.

"Access will vary among the states, but DoD has granted access to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube as long as users don't compromise operational security, participate in illegal activities or try to open prohibited Web sites," said Jack Harrison, the director of public affairs for the National Guard Bureau.

He added there are two kinds of internet posts, unofficial and official. Unofficial internet posts are not initiated by any part of the National Guard or reviewed within any official National Guard approval process. Official internet posts involve content released in an official capacity by a National Guard public affairs office.

Posting internal documents or information that the National Guard has not officially released to the public is prohibited, including memos, e-mails, meeting notes, message traffic, white papers, public affairs guidance, pre-decisional materials, investigatory information and proprietary information.

Guard members are also not allowed to release National Guard e-mail addresses, telephone numbers or fax numbers not already authorized for public release.

They are, however, encouraged to responsibly engage in unofficial internet posts about the National Guard.

"The National Guard is involved in various missions around the world every day, and Guard members are in the best position to share factually the National Guard's story," Harrison said.

When assigned to a federal mission, Guard members must comply with Army or Air Force guidelines for use of social media and are subject to disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

As with other forms of communication, Guard members must also adhere to federal laws, National Guard regulations and governing policies when making unofficial internet posts.

They are personally responsible for all content that they publish on social networking sites, blogs or other Websites.

"They must also be mindful of the content not related to the National Guard that they post, since the lines between a Guard member's personal and professional life are often blurred," Harrison said.

He added that many social media sites have policies that give them ownership of all content and information posted or stored on their sites.

When communicating online about the National Guard in unofficial internet posts, they may identify themselves as Guard members and include their rank, military component and status.

However, if they decide not to identify themselves as Guard members, they should not disguise, impersonate or misrepresent their identity or affiliation with the National Guard.

When expressing personal opinions, Guard members should make it clear that they are speaking for themselves and not on behalf of the National Guard, Harrison said.

They are also encouraged to use a disclaimer such as: "The postings on this site are my own and don't represent the National Guard's positions or opinions."

As with other forms of personal public engagement, Guard members must avoid offensive and inappropriate behavior that could bring discredit upon themselves and the National Guard. This includes posting any defamatory, libelous, obscene, abusive, threatening, racially or ethnically hateful or otherwise offensive or illegal information or material.

Correcting errors and misrepresentations made by others about the National Guard should be done professionally and respectfully, not emotionally. Guard members should contact their chain of command or public affairs office for guidance if they are uncertain about the need for a response.

When posting political content, Guard members must adhere to policy in Department of Defense Directive 1344.10. They should also not imply National Guard endorsement of any opinions, products or causes other than those already officially endorsed by the National Guard.

Guard members should not release personal identifiable information, such as social security number, home address or driver's license number that could be used to distinguish their individual identity or that of another Guardsman.

By piecing together information provided on different Websites, criminals can use information to impersonate Guard members and steal passwords.

Guard members should use privacy settings on social networking sites so posted personal information and photos can be viewed only by their "friends." They should also recognize that social network "friends" and "followers" could affect determinations in background investigations for security clearances.

"Remember, what happens online, is available to everyone, everywhere," Harrison said. "There should be no assumption of privacy when Guard members begin to interact with others online."

Guard members should not post information that would infringe upon the privacy, proprietary or personal rights of others or use any words, logos or other marks that would infringe upon the trademark, service mark, certification mark, or other intellectual property rights of the owners of such marks without the permission of the owners.

The National Guard, Army or Air Force logo and other symbols may be used in unofficial posts as long as the symbols are used in a manner that does not bring discredit upon the Guard, result in personal financial gain or give the impression of official or implied endorsement.

Finally, Guard members should review their accounts daily for possible use or changes by unauthorized users and should install and maintain current anti-virus and anti-spyware software on their personal computers.

For answers to social media questions, Guard members should contact their local public affairs office or the National Guard social media office at