WASHINGTON – The Defense Privacy and Civil Liberties Office ensures that DOD civilians and service members are able to exercise their First Amendment rights when using social media platforms
"DOD's social media policy requires that personnel follow certain rules," said Michael E. Reheuser, the office’s director, during a recent interview. Those rules aren't intended to limit free speech, he added, but only to make sure that the information being posted doesn't compromise operational security.
Personnel are allowed to express their opinions, he said, as long as doing so is consistent with the operational requirements of the department.
Some rules are different for service members than for civilians, Reheuser noted.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, service members are prohibited from disparaging the president or other senior leaders, revealing operational details or divulging classified information, he said.
"If you have an opinion that is inconsistent with the Department of Defense's, you're certainly allowed to say that," Reheuser said.
"If the person looking at it thinks that you might be working on behalf of the government, and not in your individual capacity, you really need to be careful," he added.
In some cases, it may be enough to post a disclaimer on your account, he said, but if you have any doubts, the best thing to do is check with your component's ethics professional.
As the use of social media becomes more prevalent, it's especially important for DOD personnel to be alert for potential misuse of their personal information, Reheuser said. The department does not monitor personal social media accounts, he said, so DOD personnel should monitor their online presences closely to make sure that information that comes out under their name is actually coming from them.
DOD members who suspect that an impersonator is behind a social media account for a department employee or senior leader should talk to their component's security manager, Reheuser said.