Active duty social-networking guidance for political purposes

  • Published
  • By AFOSI Public Affairs
The use of social-networking sites has greatly increased over the years. Due to their popularity, sites such as Facebook and Twitter are specifically mentioned below; however, the guidance provided applies equally to all other social media platforms, such as Tumblr, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.

The following policy guidance addresses the use of social media for political purposes and applies to members of the Armed Forces on active duty.

Information on references at the end of this article details location for similar guidance applicable to federal civilian employees.

An active-duty service member may generally express his or her own personal views on public issues or political candidates via social-media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs, much the same as they would be permitted to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper.

If a social media site/post identifies the member as on active duty (or if the member is otherwise reasonably identifiable as an active-duty member), then the entry will clearly and prominently state that the views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the Department of Defense (or Department of Homeland Security for members of the Coast Guard).

An active-duty member may not, however, engage in any partisan political activity.

Further, an active-duty member may not post or make direct links to a political party, partisan political candidate, campaign, group, or cause because such activity is the equivalent of distributing literature on behalf of those entities or individuals, which is prohibited by reference.

Moreover, an active-duty member may not post or comment on the Facebook pages or tweet at the Twitter accounts of a political party, or partisan political candidate, campaign, group, or cause, as such activity would be engaging in partisan political activity through a medium sponsored or controlled by said entities.

An active-duty member may become a friend of or like the Facebook page, or follow the Twitter account of a political party or partisan candidate, campaign, group, or cause.

However, active-duty members will refrain from engaging in activities with respect to those entities' social media accounts that would constitute political activity. This would include, for example, suggesting that others like, friend, or follow the political party, partisan political candidate, campaign, group, or cause, or forwarding an invitation or solicitation from said entities to others.

In addition, active-duty members are subject to additional restrictions based on the Joint
Ethics Regulation, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and service-specific rules, to include rules governing the use of government resources and governmental communications systems, such as email and internet usage.

Members of the Armed Forces not on active duty are not subject to the social media restrictions listed above so long as the member does not act in a manner that could reasonably create the perception or appearance of official sponsorship, approval or endorsement by the DoD or the member's service.

For more information on this subject, please refer to: DoDD 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces; 5 U.S.C, Sec. 7321-7326, The Hatch Act of 1939, as amended in 1993; 5 C.F.R. Parts 733-734, Political Activities of Federal Employees; DoDD 5230.09, Clearance of DoD Information for Public Release; Internal Revenue Code; and 18 U.S.C. 609, use of military authority to influence vote of member of Armed Forces.