DOD Releases First Departmental Policy on Social Media > US Department of Defense > Defense Department News
The Department of Defense today released a policy that, for the first time, sets out, from the highest levels of the Defense community, how DOD military and civilian personnel should use official social media accounts to best advance the U.S. military’s mission and further instill confidence in the credibility of the DOD.
DOD Instruction 5400.17titled “Official Use of Social Media for Public Affairs Purposes”, provides principles for the use of social media within DOD, guidelines regarding procedures for handling records for social media accounts, and guidance for ensuring that personal social media accounts are not misrepresented or interpreted as official accounts.
While some of the military services and other agencies issued social media policies years ago, DODI 5400.17 is the department’s first instruction that provided Pentagon-level and department-wide guidance that specifically address the use of social media. The DOD Chief Information Officer previously issued DODI 8170.01, “Online Information Management and Electronic Messaging”, to provide general guidance on the safe and appropriate use of social media. The new policy specifically addresses public affairs uses and responsibilities.
“It’s long overdue,” said Andy Oare, director of digital media for the office of the secretary of defense. “Efforts have been made in the past to achieve this, but in an organization of this size and scale, you need to coordinate fully and ensure that all points of view are heard and represented. We wanted to make sure that the departments were collaborators from the start.”
Because social media changes rapidly, Oare said policies the department may have started developing in the past but never finalized would quickly show their age. This will not happen with the newly issued Instruction, and he stressed that this policy will be continually refined and updated as the social media landscape changes.
“We will work across the department to be nimble and responsive in our day-to-day operations as we implement this policy and update it where and when we need to,” Oare said.
“Social media has an effect on every single one of our military, civilians, contractors and their families – whether they have an official account or have never heard of Twitter,” Oare said. “We owe it to all of them to have a central policy that provides a clearly articulated standard of operation and accountability.”
The DOD Social Media Policy applies to personnel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Departments, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Joint Chiefs of Staff, Combatant Commands and other DOD offices and agencies. In some cases, this means that the new policy will replace pre-existing policies on social media, but close coordination throughout its development ensured that all perspectives were considered and integrated.
“We deliberately wrote it in a collaborative way, and that encourages component heads to continue to establish component-specific regulations on social media,” Oare said. “Our goal is not to be prescriptive or restrictive, but rather to articulate common sense rules that simply have not been formally articulated at this level.”
In addition to detailing the roles and responsibilities of DOD leadership in implementing responsible social media practices, the new policy offers guidance to departmental personnel who generate content on official social media platforms to ensure responsible use of media, key considerations when establishing a new presence or expansion on new platforms, and the power to terminate unused accounts.
“Whether social media is mismanaged or mismanaged, the reputation of the U.S. government with the American public; relationships with interagency, international, state, local, and tribal entities; military operations; and reputation for ethical standard and high professional level may be compromised,” the policy said. warns social media practitioners.
DODI 5400.17 guidelines are intended to ensure DOD credibility and avoid controversy, while using social media to share its missions with the public, Oare said.
“In a digital world where the lines of truth and authenticity are so often blurred, it’s important that institutions like ours have trusted, verifiable and reliable presences,” Oare said. “We have a duty to the American people to show the work we do, to tell the story of our service members, and to present that information through the channels they use in their daily lives.”