As a member of the Armed Forces, you fight for, protect, and enjoy the right of free speech. However, you are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice 24 hours a day, and 365 days a year. Before you post, comment or link to material that violates the UCMJ, Joint Ethics Regulations, or any other standard, stop and think:
1. OPSEC! OPSEC! OPSEC!
“Information you share on the internet can provide terrorists, spies and criminals information they may use to harm you or disrupt your command’s mission. Remember, hacking, configuration errors, social engineering and the sale/sharing of user data mean your information could become public any time.” – (Navy’s Social Media Handbook 2019, pg 25)
For other tips, read the U.S. Navy’s Social Media Handbook 2019: https://www.csp.navy.mil/Portals/2/documents/downloads/navy-social-media-handbook-2019.pdf
In a world that is very much intertwined with use of technology and to stay connected to the Internet, everything we do online or at the palm of our hands leaves digital bread crumbs. Whether on or off duty, we are expected to be professionals at all times no matter where we are at, including all social media platforms.
2. Personal Views.
Military personnel are generally permitted to share personal opinions on social media regarding public issues or political candidates, but this comes with numerous caveats.
Criticism or praise directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for political office, or partisan political group is political activity and is not permitted.
Cannot post links to online political materials, “share” or “re-tweet” comments or tweets from the Facebook page or Twitter account of a political party or candidate.
Cannot forward invitations to partisan events, solicit, or fundraise.
Cannot suggest that others “like,” “friend,” or “follow” a partisan account.
Cannot post partisan political articles, letters, or endorsements that solicit votes.
Social media statements are often analogized to writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper, which require a disclaimer that they are personal views and not a DoD position. If the social media site or content identifies the Sailor as active duty OR if they are reasonably identifiable as active duty – the content needs to prominently state that the views expressed are the personal views of the individual and not those of the DoD.
Active-duty Sailors may generally express their personal views about public issues or political candidates. HOWEVER, if the social media site or content identifies the Sailor as active duty OR if they are reasonably identifiable as active duty – the content needs to prominently state that the views expressed are personal and not those of the DoD.
3. The internet lives forever.
What you post online – including posting in “closed”, “private” and “unlisted” groups – is archived and traceable forever.
Remember, people can and will take screen-grabs of your posts.
4. The use of disrespectful or contemptuous language about superior officers, noncommissioned officers, and your chain of command is prohibited by the UCMJ. Service members should remain cognizant of their obligations under the UCMJ and must not comment, post, or link to material that shows contempt for public officials, releases sensitive information, or is prejudicial to good order and discipline.
5. Do not engage in bullying, harassment, hazing, stalking, discrimination, retaliation, and any other type of improper online behavior.
6. Everyone wants the inside scoop – including our adversaries!
Do not post or comment any incidents, accidents or casualties.
Do not post or comment on adverse incidents such as a death of a shipmate, a shipmate being wounded or is missing in action.
7. Do not endorse or appear to endorse any non-federal entity, event, product, service or enterprise.
Never solicit gifts or prices for command events. (Social Media Handbook, pg. 27)
8. Do not open any attachments unless you are expecting the file, document, or invoice and have verified the sender’s email address.
9. Do not make any comments or post that may touch on a classified subject or a subject that a commander declares off-limits for public discussion is posted on social media.
10. BOTTOM LINE: BE SMART – PAUSE BEFORE YOU POST!
If you see something – speak up and say something. Any member of the Navy community who experience or witnesses incidents of improper online behavior should promptly report it to:
Their Chain of Command via the Command Managed Equal Opportunity (CMEO)
Fleet and Family Support Office
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) offices
The Inspector General
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response offices
Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS)
Specific aspects of inappropriate behavior in public under the UCMJ:
Article 88: Contempt Toward Public Officials states: “Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department…”
Article 89: Disrespect Toward a Superior Commissioned Officer
Article 91: Insubordinate Conduct towards warrant officer, non-commissioned officer, or petty officer
Article 93: Cruelty and Maltreatment of subordinates
Article 117, Provoking speech or gestures
Article 120c, Other sexual misconduct
Article 133: Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman – is an offense with deep roots in military history and the original Articles of War.
Article 134: A general article covering offenses such as disloyal statements and anything to the prejudice of good order
For more guidance on the Navy’s Social Media Policy, refer to:
1. Social media handbook:
2. Fleet Social Media resources
3. FBI page Cyber Security Month link:
4. Seven Steps to Reduce Cybersecurity Risk
5. Commander’s Call Topics link: