US Defense Department OKs Social Networking

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Following a ban on social networking by some sectors of the U.S. Department of Defense, the agency has now decided that social networking is integral to its operations and is to be encouraged.

The Department of Defense issued a memorandum on Friday that sets a new policy allowing access to social-networking services from the DoD network.

"Service members and DoD employees are welcome and encouraged to use new media to communicate with family and friends -- at home stations or deployed -- but it's important to do it safely," the Department said in a blog post about the memorandum.

DoD IT workers are authorized to temporarily limit Internet access to address bandwidth constraints or preserve operations security, the new policy says. In addition, administrators will continue to prevent access to prohibited content like pornography and gambling sites, and work to ensure that the use of social networking doesn't introduce malicious code to the network.

The new policy reflects the importance of social networking, the DoD said. "This policy recognizes that Internet based capabilities are integral to operations across the Department of Defense," the new policy says.

In 2007, the DoD began blocking sites including YouTube and MySpace from military networks. But that was not an official policy, it said in the blog post.

"This is DoD's first official policy on new media. Prior to today, the Services and other DoD components developed and implemented their own ad hoc policies -- some banning it all together," it said.

Last year, for instance, the Marines banned the use of social-networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter from its network. With the new policy, the Marines will have to reverse that ban. "Under this new policy, there will be open and consistent access across the board," according to the DoD blog post.

Some agencies, however, have been using sites like Twitter in an official capacity to communicate with the public. In fact, the main Web site for the DoD includes links to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube pages.

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