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The Army is at the forefront of social networking, offering Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages to connect the public with soldiers in uniform. And while the military enjoys broad support online — the Army’s Facebook page has 173,000 fans — that doesn’t mean it’s immune from inappropriate posts from those who take issue with the military or politics.
Policing racist, sexist or harassing comments is important to maintaining the military’s integrity, but deleting too many comments may make users suspicious of censorship, said Staff Sgt. Josh Salmons, emerging media coordinator at Fort Meade’s Defense Information School during a Feb. 24 panel at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association conference in Washington, D.C.
Salmons posts notices on social networking pages alerting users that offensive comments may be deleted. By making clear what language is tolerated and the sites’ editorial policies, agencies can keep social networking sites polite and civil, Salmons said.
And the Army’s Facebook page issues a straightforward warning to those who may want to “troll” on the page’s wall and post incendiary comments:
We do not allow graphic, obscene, explicit or racial comments or submissions nor do we allow comments that are abusive, hateful or intended to defame anyone or any organization.
Col. Kevin Arata, director of the Army’s online and social media division, said he requires Facebook posts to be suitable for his 12- and 14-year-old kids to read. And the posted policy works, he said, because he now rarely removes comments from the nearly year-old Army Facebook page.
In fact, fellow Facebook users often police the page and call out those who may have stepped over the line of polite conversation, Arata said.
You get a couple nutjobs who want to litter the page, and it’s a guy or gal who has a agenda. The fans came back and said, ‘Hey this is a page for people who like the Army. If you don’t like the Army, go somewhere else.’”