Science and Technology News

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Social Media posts can have unintended consequences

by Airman 1st Class Jeff Parkinson
1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

6/23/2014 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- With social media on the rise, any post has the potential to go viral, which could be good or bad depending on the circumstances.

Anyone can view social media sites no matter the privacy setting. As Air Commandos, it's important to keep the Air Force Core Values in mind when posting.

Those who list the Air Force as their employer on their profile aren't only speaking for themselves; they are also representing the Air Force.

"When you list your employer and occupation, you then are representing it and can be held accountable for the things you post," said Staff Sgt. John Bainter, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of social media. "If Airmen post inappropriate things or activities, they could have their core values questioned and can face disciplinary actions."

Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, Air Force Special Operations Command commander, distributed a social media policy on March 25, which was established to preserve operational security and maintain credibility.

Social media sites give AFSOC Airmen the opportunity to tell the Air Force story to a worldwide audience. However, these sites should be used responsibly.

"All AFSOC personnel are reminded that any time they post to social networking sites, even in a personal capacity, they are representing AFSOC, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Air Force," said Fiel in his policy letter. "You must use your best judgment at all times and avoid inappropriate and unprofessional behavior that could bring discredit upon yourself, your unit and the command."

According to Air Force Instruction 35-113, Airmen may not post any defamatory, libelous, vulgar, obscene, abusive, profane, threatening, hateful, racially, ethnically, or otherwise offensive or illegal information or material.

In addition, AFI 1-1 states that Airmen who voice their personal opinions on social media sites should make it clear that they are speaking for themselves, not on behalf of the Air Force. Service members may not use their rank and service in situations where the context may imply official sanction or endorsement of their personal opinions.

"There are always consequences to what is written," Bainter said. "If you are about to post something that is questionable and may reflect negatively on the Air Force, you should review the guidance set forth in the AFIs.

"If you are still unsure, you should discuss the proposed post with your supervisor or the public affairs office," he added.

Ultimately, Airmen have the sole responsibility for what they post.

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