Marines can 'like' political Facebook pages but not 'share' them, new guidance says

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks with Marine Jason Perkins after he sang the National Anthem during a campaign stop Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Eric Schultz)

Editor's note: This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

As a final, intensive year of campaigning begins ahead of the 2020 presidential election, the Marine Corps has issued a new message to troops making clear what's off-limits to them in terms of political activity -- particularly on social media.

The message, released this month, reiterates past guidance: Marines can vote and verbally express political opinions, but cannot use their uniform to suggest military endorsement. But it expands on historically grey areas that have gotten troops into trouble.

Regarding social media, active-duty troops and federal employees can use their accounts to express personal views, including those on political issues and candidates, "much the same as they would be permitted to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper," the message states. However, if it's clear from the account or post that the author is an active-duty service member, the posting must include a disclaimer stating that the views expressed are those of an individual and not the Defense Department or Marine Corps.

But sharing or linking to a political page crosses a line.

"Because an active duty member may not engage in partisan political activity, the active duty member may not post or make direct links to a political party, partisan political candidate, campaign, group, or cause," the message states. "Such activity is akin to distributing literature on behalf of those entities, which is prohibited."

Shares are out, but likes are OK, according to the guidance. An active-duty service member can "friend" or "like" the social media page of a candidate or cause, but cannot invite others to "like," "friend" or "follow" the page, or otherwise invite them to participate.

If a Marine is not on active duty, there are fewer restrictions. Reservists and others in this category may post what they wish on social media "so long as the member does not act in a manner that could reasonably create the appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement by the DoD or the Marine Corps," according to the message.

And political social media activity of any kind must be conducted on a service member's own time: Political emails and social media messages cannot be set and posted in a federal building at any time, even from a personal electronic device.

"Individuals should never use government equipment when engaging in political activities," the message adds.

The message also includes guidance for reservists -- a thorny area, as those in the Reserve can run for and win political office.

Reserve members, and military retirees, can use photographs of themselves in uniform in campaign materials, according to the message, but these images must include "a prominent and clearly displayed disclaimer that the military photograph does not imply endorsement by the Department of Defense or their particular Military Department."

The official Marine Corps seal and iconic Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem may not be reproduced in campaign literature, the message states.

But while the service has broad authority to regulate the behavior of active-duty troops and vigilantly guards use of its copyrighted emblems, it's not completely clear how it plans to enforce guidance governing retirees running for political office. has reached out to the Marine Corps for more information on this policy.

According to the new message, Marine Corps units are also prohibited from providing support to political campaign events, making uniformed color guards and military musicians singing the National Anthem at these events officially off-limits.

The message includes a final piece of guidance pertaining to political signs and posters. While active-duty troops are allowed to display a political bumper sticker on their personal vehicle, displaying a "large political sign, banner or poster" on a personal car is prohibited. Also barred is the display of a publicly visible partisan sign or banner on the outside of military housing, even if that housing is privatized.

Most of the items addressed in the new message appear to be prompted by a recent real-world event as the military navigates the ambiguous boundaries and protocols of social media.

In 2012, Marine Corps Sgt. Gary Stein received an "other-than-honorable" discharge after creating a political "Tea Party" Facebook page and declaring "Screw Obama" on his personal account.

In 2015, Marine Cpl. Jason Perkins received a formal rebuke for performing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in his dress blues uniform at a Donald Trump rally. The new guidance makes explicit that this activity is off-limits.

In 2017, Navy SEALs with Naval Special Warfare Group 2 got in trouble with their command after they were spotted flying a large Trump flag from their tactical vehicle in a convoy on a Louisville, Kentucky, highway.

And more recently, President Trump's penchant for spotlighting troops at his events has led to controversy. In May, Navy officials announced they were reviewing whether uniform sleeve patches sporting a picture of Trump and the words "Make Aircrew Great Again" -- a riff on Trump's campaign slogan -- fell afoul of political prohibitions.

This article originally appeared on

More articles from

Nothing says joint force battle management like a ride-sharing app. (Task & Purpose photo illustration)

The Air Force's top general says one of the designers of the ride-sharing app Uber is helping the branch build a new data-sharing network that the Air Force hopes will help service branches work together to detect and destroy targets.

The network, which the Air Force is calling the advanced battle management system (ABMS), would function a bit like the artificial intelligence construct Cortana from Halo, who identifies enemy ships and the nearest assets to destroy them at machine speed, so all the fleshy humans need to do is give a nod of approval before resuming their pipe-smoking.

Read More
The newly painted F-15 Eagle flagship, dubbed the Heritage Jet, was painted to honor 1st Lt. David Kingsley, the namesake for Kingsley Field, and his ultimate sacrifice. (U.S. Air National Guard/Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar)

An F-15C Eagle is sporting a badass World War II-era paint job in honor of a fallen bomber pilot who gave everything to ensure his men survived a deadly battle.

Read More
The wreckage of a U.S. Air Force E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft is seen after a crash in Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, Afghanistan on January 27, 2020 (Reuters photo)

A U.S. E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft crashed on Monday on Afghanistan, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has confirmed.

Read More
In this June 7, 2009 file photo Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) points to a player behind him after making a basket in the closing seconds against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in Los Angeles. Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. He was 41. (Associated Press/Mark J. Terrill)

Beloved basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday. Two days earlier, Army Spc. Antonio I. Moore was killed during a vehicle rollover accident while conducting route clearing operations in Syria.

Which one more deserves your grief and mourning? According to Maj. Gen. John R. Evans, commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, you only have enough energy for one.

Read More
Jessica Purcell of St. Petersburg, a captain in the Army Reserve, was pregnant with son Jameson when she was told at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic not to worry about lumps under her arm. She now is diagnosed stage 4 cancer. Jameson is 10 months old. (Tampa Bay Times/Scott Keeler via Tribune News Service)

Jessica Purcell, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, was pregnant with her first child when she noticed a swollen lymph node in her left underarm.

Health-care providers at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic told her it was likely an infection or something related to pregnancy hormones. The following year they determined the issue had resolved itself.

It hadn't. A doctor off base found a large mass in her underarm and gave her a shocking diagnosis: stage 2 breast cancer.

Purcell was pregnant again. Her daughter had just turned 1. She was 35. And she had no right to sue for malpractice.

A 1950 Supreme Court ruling known as the Feres doctrine prohibits military members like Purcell from filing a lawsuit against the federal government for any injuries suffered while on active duty. That includes injury in combat, but also rape and medical malpractice, such as missing a cancer diagnosis.

Thanks in part to Tampa lawyer Natalie Khawam, a provision in this year's national defense budget allows those in active duty to file medical malpractice claims against the government for the first time since the Feres case.

With the Department of Defense overseeing the new claims process, the question now is how fairly and timely complaints will be judged. And whether, in the long run, this new move will help growing efforts to overturn the ruling and allow active duty members to sue like everyone else.

Read More