Social media is a major part of our daily interactions, so when Soldiers are killed in action or go missing, it’s hard to turn off the flow of information distributed through social media platforms.
While it’s difficult to prepare for tragedy, it’s important to know that social media can play a role (good or bad) in the handling of MIA and KIA situations.
It’s important to be mindful of the information posted on social media platforms, and understand how it can complicate issues when a Soldier dies in combat or goes missing.
Social Media Roundup The media and social media
When specific Soldiers become of interest to the media, reporters go to social media to find more information and photos.
Once a Soldier goes MIA or is KIA, the situation becomes much more sensitive.
Information about the Soldier can be distributed much faster to a much broader audience by the media if Soldiers and their families are not proactive about protecting their online privacy.
Social Media Roundup Protecting personal information
In an MIA or KIA situation, members of the media may look at your personal Facebook profile or the profiles of your family to find out more about you.
In an captivity situation, captors may also turn to Facebook to pull information from family member profiles for interrogation purposes. It’s vitally important that you and your family set privacy settings as restrictive as possible.
Facebook’s default privacy settings are often public, but Facebook provides various setting options that help Facebook users adjust settings.
Twitter allows users to keep their Tweets private and Flickr gives users the option of keeping photos private. Similar privacy settings can be found on other social media sites like Myspace and LinkedIn.
Facebook On the top are Facebook’s sharing recommendations, on the bottom are the Army’s sharing recommendations. For more information about protecting yourself on Facebook, check out this Social Media Roundup: http://goo.gl/2WAlu
Details about Soldiers killed in action cannot be released until 24 hours after the next of kin has been notified and after the information has been released by the DoD at: http://www.defense.gov/releases/. In our social media culture, this has become harder to enforce.
There have been instances of Soldiers releasing information about their comrades who have been killed in action through social media platforms.
It’s important that all friends, family and fellow Soldiers know that information about individuals killed in action must not be released before the next of kin is notified. In fact, in the interest of the family, it is not advised to post information about Soldiers killed in action until the family has had the opportunity to grieve.
Social Media Roundup Soldier checklist Ask yourself, “Would the information I have publicly available now be acceptable if I went missing or were killed in action?” Adjust your privacy settings to the most restrictive settings possible. Talk to your spouse (siblings, parents, significant other) about what will happen in a MIA or KIA situation. Consider drafting a power of attorney that gives your next-of-kin the ability to manage and/or turn off your social media sites. Or consider sharing login information with your spouse. If their profile is linked to yours in any way, they may be targeted by the media or enemy interrogators. Talk to your immediate family about their privacy settings. Never list your address or home phone number on your profiles.
Social Media Roundup Soldier family checklist Consider adjusting your privacy settings to the most restrictive settings possible so that nobody outside of your friends can see your content. Talk to your Soldier about what they expect from you with regards to social media and what you can post about their deployment while he or she is deployed. Have a plan in place to access your Soldier’s site(s) and make necessary adjustments to protect information. Consider how the information you post on social networking sites would impact your Soldier if he/she was missing in action. Consider drafting a power of attorney that allows you to manage and/or turn off your Soldier’s social media site(s). Never list your home address or phone number on your social media sites.
Social Media Roundup Social media manager considerations
As a social media manager or a public affairs specialist, it may be your job to stop the flow of information through social media platforms in an MIA or KIA situation.
If someone posts to your unit’s wall about a MIA or KIA Soldier, reach out to your unit’s public affairs office immediately and take the post down if next of kin have not been notified.
Make sure the public affairs office is prepared with photos the family prefers to be used by the media. Provide those images to the media directly. This willquickly to minimize the chances of the media searching online for random photos.
Reach out to family members of the victims through their social media platforms and work with them to secure their privacy settings or remove profiles and sites entirely.
Social Media Roundup Facebook memorials
When a Soldier with a Facebook profile dies, someone must report the death to Facebook using this form, http://goo.gl/1tE7E. This will allow Facebook to continue to display the Soldier’s profile as a memorial.
When proof of death is confirmed, the page is memorialized, which means:
Status updates and contact information are removed
Privacy settings are changed so that only friends and “friends of friends” can see the profile or locate it in search
The Wall remains open so that friends and family can leave posts in remembrance
Social Media Roundup Contact information Have questions? Please feel free to reach out to us at the Online and Social Media Division Email: Ocpa.firstname.lastname@example.org To review and download past editions of the Social Media Roundup, visit our Slideshare site at: http://www.slideshare.net/usarmysocialmedia. All Social Media Roundups are authorized to be distributed to a broader audience. 6/1/2011 OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS PENTAGON