Australian Military Cracks Down on Social Media

While the U.S. military has embraced social media, albeit hesitantly, it's fair to say that social media -- an undisciplined, egalitarian free-for-all -- is a bit unnerving to the military mindset, with its respect for order, authority, and accountability. As a result some other professional militaries are thinking twice about whether to let service members use social media, and under what circumstances.

This week brought news that Australian Defense (sorry, make that "Defence") Minister Stephen Smith is considering a crackdown on social media use following negative publicity from an anti-gay Facebook page created by a former member of the Australian Defence Force, which specifically targeted four current members of the ADF.

The revelation resulted in the arrest of the former ADF member who created the page, and may result in the discharge of dozens more soldiers who posted threatening and homophobic remarks on the page. One Australian newspaper described it as a "social media campaign designed to expose and intimidate homosexual personnel" in the ADF, which has accepted openly homosexual service members since 1992.

Responding to public criticism, Smith has ordered an external investigation into the risks of social media use -- already in the spotlight after a male recruit was arrested for using a Web cam to live stream video of sexual intercourse with a female recruit to six other soldiers without her knowledge in March. The social media brouhaha comes at a particularly unwelcome juncture for the ADF, which has in recent months also been subject to ongoing external investigations into widespread alcohol abuse and discrimination against women.

Announcing the investigation, Smith stated: "It's very important that members of the ADF, whether they're onshore or offshore, understand that at all times they are representing the defence force and representing the nation."

Like many civilians, members of the Commonwealth militaries seem to be struggling with the appropriate use of social media. Shortly before the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, Cameron Reilly, a member of the distinctive "Scots Guard" outside Buckingham Palace, was pulled off parade duty after calling Middleton a "stupid stuck up cow" on Facebook.

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