On the advice of U.S. Strategic Command, the Pentagon is weighing an all-out ban on using social-networking Websites — including Facebook, Twitter and blogs — on military computers. The Marines have already issued their own Web 2.0 block. “These Internet sites in general are a proven haven for malicious actors and content,” the Marines said.
It’s not clear yet what the Defense Department’s new Web policy will be, though some restrictions are probably coming. But that doesn’t mean the Pentagon won’t continue accessing social-networking sites, for keeping tabs on the American public. “Newly released government documents show the military also uses these Internet tools to monitor and react to coverage of high-profile events,” the Associated Press reported Monday.
The documents related to the Air Force’s disastrous April 27 photo-shoot (pictured) over New York City, which involved two F-16 fighters “chasing” one of the President’s modified 747s, known as “Air Force One” when he’s aboard. The photo-shoot had not been publicly announced, and sparked a minor panic as thousands of New Yorkers believed another 9/11-style attack was underway. In the wake of the incident, a special Air Force team “tracked online messaging service Twitter, video-sharing site YouTube and various blogs to assess the huge public backlash,” according to the AP.
In the hours after the fly-over, the so-called “Combat Information Cell” at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida told Pentagon leaders that “Website blog comments [are] ‘furious’ at best.” As Tweeters spread the story and bloggers’ reactions, the cell advised military officials that “no positive spin is possible.” The Air Force stressed it was only trying “to obtain what lessons we might learn so as not to repeat them in the future.”
But John Verdi, from the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C, told the AP that military monitoring could violate the unspoken “trust” inherent in using Web 2.0 sites. “Lots of times individuals upload private or sensitive information that they expect to share with their friends or family and not the whole Internet world,” Verdi said. “It would certainly be a major problem if the government were accessing that information under false pretenses.”
(Photo: via Mlive.com)