Protect yourself online

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Darren Domingo
  • 50th Space Wing Public Affairs

In the final weeks culminating this election, Team Schriever is reminded to maintain a professional image on personal social media accounts, while engaging in the political discussion.

According to an AirForceTV video, Tech. Sgt. Holly Roberts-Davis explains long gone are the days where an Airman’s main prohibitions during the political season are to not campaign for a candidate while active-duty and in uniform or attend political rallies on behalf of the Air Force.

In today’s world, personal vigilance of angry Twitter fingers and Facebook venting are just as vital.

According to Guidance on Political Activity and DOD Support 2016, “civilian and military personnel may generally express their personal views on public issues or political candidates via social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs… If, when expressing a personal opinion, personnel are identified by a social media site as (Department of Defense) employees, the posting must clearly and prominently state that the views expressed are those of the individual only and not of the Department of Defense.”

The latter portion of the guidance is key, as social media users may lower guards when posting on a personal page, forgetting to annotate their views do not represent the Air Force as a whole.

As noted in DOD Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, uniformed members may not participate in partisan political activities. Social media users must understand that while “liking,” “following” and “friending” a political candidate is authorized, “sharing,” or “retweeting” a candidate’s comments or tweets is deemed the same as participating in partisan politics.

“Federal regulations are very restrictive regarding who can espouse official DoD views/policy, and even restricts the appearance of impropriety (e.g. when a statement might mislead people into thinking someone is acting in an official capacity),” said Capt. Robert Fuller, 50th Space Wing Judge Advocate office. “There are also prohibitions on ‘all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the arm forces.’ Conceivably, some crude political statements expressed on social media might do that depending on who it is directed against.”

Maintaining a level head is vital to maintaining a professional online image.

“Politics can generate passionate opinions and forceful expression of those opinions.  Many people often don't stop to think through their actions, or aren't aware of the legal ramifications of their actions,” said Roberts.

Generally, those legal consequences may be Uniform Code of Military Justice actions, non-judicial punishments such as an Article 15, or administrative action such as letters of reprimand, Admonishment and Counseling.  

For more information, or legal assistance, contact the 50th Space Wing legal office at 567-5050.