The U.S. Marine Corps is issuing new rules governing personal activity on social media in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that prompted congressional hearings, including questions about the treatment of female marines.
Like parallel incidents in the broader society, the USMC social media scandal centers on online sharing of intimate photos of female marines without their consent.
Most of the sharing took place on a Facebook page, Marines United, and many of the photos were accompanied by comments encouraging sexual assault against the women in the photos.
Although this particular Facebook page has been taken down, similar ones were subsequently created on other platforms.
On Tuesday, Marine Corps commandant General Robert Neller was called to testify to the Senate Armed Service Committee about the scandal, telling the legislators the USMC is drafting a new code of conduct to prevent similar incidents in future.
The new rules will include more guidance for online activity, unlike previous ones which focused mostly on sexual assault prevention and response.
Among other additions, the new rules will emphasize that illicit activity on social media, including sharing images of marines without their consent, fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, meaning violators are subject to dishonorable discharge and even court martial, depending on the severity of the offense.
In a memo to officers, Neller wrote: “Leaders should remind our Marines they are not anonymous in the virtual world and remain accountable for their actions. Where we find criminal behavior, we will take appropriate action.”
The Marines United incident is currently under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. It is unclear whether charges will be brought against individual marines, or what those charges might be.
The incident was first reported by a former marine, Thomas Brennan, who said he has received death threats as well as threats of sexual assault against his wife from members of Marines United and similar pages.