Social media in the Air Force: A blessing and a curse

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder, on Sept. 14, 2012, Facebook hit one billion users. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, the list of social media networks is never-ending.

While many Airmen rely on social networking sites to communicate to family and friends back home, some may be unaware of the potential security risks and dangers involved.
According to InfoSec Institute, in 2010 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security discovered that terrorist groups are increasing their use of Facebook for purposes to include spreading propaganda, exchanging information and monitoring their enemies.

This should be no surprise to the average Facebook user as it is common to receive a friend request from someone whom you've never met and have zero "mutual friends with." Do you ever wonder how they found you? Why they want to be your friend? Enemy forces can track personnel in the field who use location applications [via smartphone] on social networking sites. Many smartphones are embedded with geographical location information after someone snaps a photo. Providing information such as hobbies, birth date, high school and even military organization can leave your social site vulnerable to be hacked into or have your identity stolen.

In addition to releasing too much information on social media platforms, Airmen are reminded that posting defamatory, obscene, abusive, racist or illegal information can result in disciplinary action. Once you post something, it's out there forever. Would you want your commander or first sergeant to see every status, comment and photo you post or are tagged in?

The following are some tips on how to minimize social media networks risks:

· According to Consumer Reports, nearly 13 million Facebook users either don't understand how or have never adjusted their privacy settings. Frequently monitor the settings, as new features can change the current privacy setting. Set privacy settings to "friends only."

· If you own a Smartphone, deactivate location services in general settings. Limit virtual "check into" places on Facebook.

· Limit personal use of social networking on Department of Defense information systems.

· While Airmen have the right and duty to voice political opinions, According to Air Force Instruction 1-1 Air Force Standards, paragraph 2.13.1., Article 88 under the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits officers from using contemptuous words against the President, Vice President, Congress, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of a Military Department, Secretary of Homeland Security or governor of any state, territory, commonwealth or possession in which he/she is on duty or present. Enlisted Airmen who make derogatory or disrespectful statements about political leaders may violate Article 134 of the UCMJ when their military status is associated with their statements (i.e. posting comments on a social networking site where member's employment with the Air Force is also listed).

For more information on social media networking in the Air Force, go to

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