Missing or Killed in Action: Considerations in the Age of Social Media (Oct 2010: links or data may be outdated)

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This snapshot discusses social media considerations for when a service member is missing in action (MIA) or killed in action (KIA).

This snapshot discusses social media considerations for when a service member is missing in action (MIA) or killed in action (KIA).

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  • 2. When specific Sailors become of interest to the media, where do reporters go to find more information and photos?How would you feel if your Facebook photo became the one used by the media in a news story about you?Imagine the heightened sensitivity when the media interest surrounds a Sailor who is MIA or KIA
  • 3. Recent real-life example: Missing Sailors in Afghanistan
    Two Sailors went missing in Afghanistan.
    When searching for names online, significant information was available to the public that could be detrimental to the Sailor and his family.
    CHINFO, the local PAO and CACO officers took measures swiftly to protect those service members from potential enemies that may have been holding them captive.
    Information found on their personal profiles (or that of their family members or friends) could be used against them.
    In this instance, CHINFO was able to work directly with the social media sites to temporarily disable both service members’ pages, but did not have legal authority to make any changes to immediate family member pages that may have had information on the Sailors.
    Media used a photo from Flickr in some articles. The photo was found on the Flickr page of a military support organization that had visited the Sailor’s command.
    All blacked out information was available to the public at the time
    Stricter social media privacy settings would have prevented this information from being publically available.
  • 4. Recent real-life example: Afghanistan Helo Crash
    It was apparent that the service members killed in action would have significant media interest.
    CHINFO worked with the parent commands of the Sailors to determine:
    If the Sailors had social media presences
    How much information was publicly available
    How did the families feel about this information being public
    The families were asked if they wanted the Navy to take action to attempt to remove or block their Sailor’s publicly available information in social media
    One family chose to have their Sailor’s social networking site (Facebook) memorialized (see slide 13)
    One family chose to have their Sailor’s social networking site (Facebook) temporarily disabled
    In this case, Facebook went above and beyond their normal procedures to facilitate requests to disable profiles. They will not guarantee this level of support everytime.
    One reporter said she was still able to see the memorialized page, most likely because she was a friend of a profile that the Sailor was a friend of.
  • 5. "In Naval Special Warfare, there are some added sensitivities and operational security concerns associated with a service member's use of social media. When a Special Operator (or NSW Support Sailor) is killed in action, particularly when they are in a job where their personal identity must be protected, proactive education and a post-incident response plan help mitigate and balance the legitimate use of these mediums in an operationally sensitive environment.“LT Arlo Abrahamson, Public Affairs OfficerNaval Special Warfare Group TWO
  • 6. With the advent of social media, the speed and reach of information changes the way we must manageMissing In Action (MIA) & Killed in Action (KIA) situationsHow can YOU best prepare for and manage MIA / KIA situations?
  • 7. Sailors—ask yourself the following:
    Have you talked to your spouse (siblings, parents, significant other) about what will happen if you go missing or are killed?
    Have you considered adjusting your privacy settings? http://www.slideshare.net/USNavySocialMedia/recommended-facebook-privacy-settings-august-2010
    Would the information you have publicly available now be acceptable to you if you went missing or were killed?
    Have you considered a power of attorney to give your next-of-kin the ability to manage and/or turn off your social media site(s)?
    Have you talked to your immediate family about their privacy settings? Information they share about you could be made public depending on their privacy settings
    Have you ever Googled yourself? Think about what information would be available to the media or enemies if they were to search for your name online.
  • 8. Families—ask yourself the following:
    Have you considered adjusting YOUR privacy settings? These setting are good guidelines for anyone, not just Sailors! http://www.slideshare.net/USNavySocialMedia/recommended-facebook-privacy-settings-august-2010
    Have you talked to your Sailor about what they expect from you with regards to social media and what you post about their deployment while he or she is deployed?
    Have you considered arranging a power of attorney so you can manage and/or turn off your Sailor’s social media site(s)
    Do you have a game plan to access your Sailor’s site(s) and make necessary adjustments to protect information?
    How would the information YOU post on social networking sites impact your Sailor if he/she was missing in action?
  • 9. Commanding Officers—things to consider before you deploy:
    Talk to your Sailors before you deploy about the following:
    Have you changed your privacy settings to ensure photos, information and your connections cannot be viewed by people you do not know well?
    Do you have a game plan with your family on what will happen to your page should you go missing?
    Consider having Sailors sign a “Page 2” agreeing to change their privacy settings to the Navy recommended settings
    Assign is assigned to conduct random checks for your Sailors on Google, Facebook, MySpace and other sites to see what information is available to the public. If information shared is not appropriate, be sure to inform Sailors of changes that need to be made.
  • 10. Public Affairs Officers
    Before & during every deployment:
    Check with your CO to ensure you are on the same page regarding social media site awareness, privacy settings and recommended courses of action
    Conduct training with your Sailors to teach them how to adequately protecting their information
    Monitor Social Media for conversations about your command and its Sailors. Follow up anytime you see Sailors or family members sharing too much information or inappropriate information.
    When managing an MIA/KIA situation:
    Take care to strike the right decision-making balance between CACO, families and the media. Work together to determine the best course of action to protect the Sailor’s information online and what changes, if any, need to be made to social networking sites
    In the 24 hour window from when the next of kin is notified and the names are released:
    Check with the family members to identify social media sites used by the Sailor
    Notify family members that these sites will be searched by those who seek it once the names are released, so precautions must be taken now to ensure any information they wish to not be shared publicly gets blocked or removed
    Be aware that CHINFO works directly with many social networking sites and we can contact these site administrators directly for special requests although we cannot guarantee that requests to social networking sites will be fulfilled.
    Be prepared with photos the family prefers to be used by the media. Provide those images to the media directly and quickly to minimize the chances of them searching online for photos at random.
  • 11. Casualty Assistance Calls Officers (CACO)
    Address social networking sites with the next of kin
    Are you aware of any social media sites your Sailor was active on?
    What social networking sites do you or other family members use?
    How does your family feel about the information currently presented on these social networking site(s)?
    Suggest recommended privacy settings, http://www.slideshare.net/USNavySocialMedia/recommended-facebook-privacy-settings-august-2010
    If managing a KIA situation, present options for how to manage the Sailor’s social networking sites (e.g. memorialize on Facebook, account removal). Work with the PAO and/or CHINFO for more on options.
    Be aware the family is likely to change their mind about what they want to do with the social networking sites, so be flexible
    Be prepared with the Facebook privacy settings snapshot when you go to the house so that the family can secure their own profiles.
    Coordinate closely with the PAO to determine the best COA based on the family’s wishes
    If possible, request a preferred photo that the PAO can provide to the media to minimize the risk of the media searching online for a photo at random.
    Not every service member killed in action will warrant changes to social networking sites, but in cases with significant media interest, social media sites will be searched by the media, so it’s vital to take steps to ensure only information the family is comfortable releasing is available.
  • 12. What happens on Facebook when its user dies?
    Someone must report the death to Facebook using this form, http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=deceased
    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
    Login access to the account is blocked
    Facebook will honor requests from close family members only to close the account completely if they do not wish to leave a memorialized page active. To remove an account:
    An immediate family member may request removal of an account through this form http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=memorialize_special_requests
    After an account is removed, it cannot be viewed, cannot be restored and content cannot be retrieved from the page unless required by law.
    Note, you must provide proof of death
  • 13. Your “online legacy” goes beyond Facebook and MySpace Think about the web footprint you will leave behind after death
    Recommended Reading:
    • http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/
    • 14. http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/tech/2009/11/22/shrader.digital.afterlife.cnn
    • 15. http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/2010/08/twitter-adopts-policy-for-deceased-users/
    • 16. http://www.techlicious.com/how-to/what-happens-to-your-online-accounts-when-you-die/
    • 17. http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=163091042130
    • 18. http://news.discovery.com/tech/online-locker-preserves-your-digital-life-for-eternity.html