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Whistle, But Don't Twitter, While You Work!

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Contributor:
David Silversmith
David Silversmith

So far most employees are allowed to whistle why they work - but whether they can Twitter and what they can Twitter about is a growing challenge and controversy around the world!

The last week has been a rough week for social media.  Twitter has been faced with technical challenges with an ongoing denial of service attack that has knocked the site offline for parts of several days. Then, if technology was not enough of a foe, policy reared its head with the United States Marines and ESPN Network both put in place new rules that limit use of social media like Twitter. 

The US Marines issued an order Monday that bans social media sites including Twitter, Facebook and MySpace on its network. The ban, which will last a year, essentially rules out use of all public social networks by Marines, unless a mission-critical need exists. The fully-capitalized document reads, in part:

THESE INTERNET SITES IN GENERAL ARE A PROVEN HAVEN FOR MALICIOUS ACTORS AND CONTENT AND ARE PARTICULARLY HIGH RISK DUE TO INFORMATION EXPOSURE, USER GENERATED CONTENT AND TARGETING BY ADVERSARIES. THE VERY NATURE OF SNS CREATES A LARGER ATTACK AND EXPLOITATION WINDOW, EXPOSES UNNECESSARY INFORMATION TO ADVERSARIES AND PROVIDES AN EASY CONDUIT FOR INFORMATION LEAKAGE THAT PUTS OPSEC, COMSEC, PERSONNEL AND THE MCEN AT AN ELEVATED RISK OF COMPROMISE. EXAMPLES OF INTERNET SNS SITES INCLUDE FACEBOOK, MYSPACE, AND TWITTER.

While you have to recongize the security risks, this ban will have an impact on the off-duty time and family connections for US Marines stationed around the world.  In wars gone by - WW1 and WWII, a soldier might have survived on a few letters from loved one during the course of several years overseas.  Social media sites transformed communication and this ban will reduce their communication - but with email, Skyping and instant messaging it's still a far cry from full media censorship.  That said - this will certainly have a negative impact on the social media sites.

ric bucher espn

While the Marines are blocking several key social media sites, ESPN is taking an approach that says these tools are great - but if you are talking sports, that is part of your job not your personal life. ESPN is stating that with regards to social networks such as message boards, conversation pages and other forms of social networking such as Facebook and Twitter we expect to hold all talent who participate in social networking to the same standards we hold for interaction with our audiences across TV, radio and our digital platforms. And they are not limiting this to just on air talent as this new policy applies to all ESPN Talent, anchors, play by play, hosts, analysts, commentators, reporters and writers who participate in any form of personal social networking that contain sports related content.

ESPN is not saying they are anti-social media, indeed ESPN took to Twitter to tweet an official statement as Nate Smelt (@Nate_ESPN), an ESPN publicist, tweeted “We have been active in the social media space for awhile.  We are now merely getting smarter about it by providing guidelines to commentators and reporters.”

Highlighting that the "battle" over social media is far from over, new "Online Engagement Guidelines", published by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) on August 6th make clear their personnel can make full use of websites such as Facebook and YouTube as long as they: follow the same high standards of conduct and behaviour online as would be expected elsewhere and always maintain personal information and operational security and be careful about the information they share online.  

Indeed the British Ministry of Defence is even encouraging staff to volunteer to operate social media presences as part of their official duties, to help explain their work to the public.  After all - that's what social media is all about.

Where will this all end? Can you blog about your job or the industry you are in?  The best advice comes via the UK MOD, "get authorisation from their chain of command when appropriate," which essentially translates as, when in doubt - ask your employer about social media before putting your foot into the social media quicksand.

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