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USMC Commandant wants Marines to know this about social media
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps, Cpl. April Price)

By Team MOC

Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. Neller, sent a message to the entire Marine Corps last week on the heels of a grueling Senate hearing regarding the now-infamous Marines United Facebook scandal. Neller noted that the guidance is “for personnel who, in their personal capacity, desire to make unofficial posts on the internet regarding Marine Corps-related topics” and ” concerning unofficial online activity that has an adverse effect on good order and discipline within, or brings discredit upon, the armed forces.”

Neller outlined five major points in his statement:

Marines are ambassadors for the Marine Corps

Neller reminded the Devil Dogs to “responsibly engage” in what they post about the Marine Corps and other related topics. He also asked them to correct errors and misreprentations they come across while online.

Marines are always Marines

The Commandant noted that there is no time-off from being a Marine. Marines are representatives of their history and branch all the time, regardless of whether or not they are working. As such, their “speech and conduct must consistently embody our core values and commitment to each other, our Corps, and our Nation.”

Online activity can harm good order and discipline

Marines are advised to stay away from engaging in social media activity that can harm “good order and discipline or that bring discredit upon themselves, their unit, or the Marine Corps.” Marines cannot defame, threaten, harass, or discriminate based on a person’s:

  • race
  • color
  • sex
  • gender
  • age
  • religion
  • sexual orientation
  • other protected criteria

Online and offline behavior is punishable by the UCMJ

Besides noting that Marines can break federal and state laws with online activity, Neller also posted a laundry list of UCMJ articles that can be used to punish Marines who are participating in defamatory behavior or harassment:

  • Article 92 (prohibits violation or failure to obey general orders or regulations, dereliction of duties)
  • Article 134 (prohibits offensive conduct, indecent language and conduct, and communicating a threat)
  • Articles 88-21 (prohibits insubordination or disrespect to civilian or military leadership)
  • Article 93 (prohibits maltreatment of those of lesser rank)
  • Article 120c (prohibits sexual misconduct regarding viewing, visual recording, broadcasting)
  • Article 133 (prohibits conduct unbecoming of an officer)

There is help for Marines who have been affected by online criminal activity

Neller encouraged those who “have been subject to inappropriate online conduct” to make use of the following military services:

  • Base chaplain
  • Vicitm’s Legal Counsel
  • Chain of command
  • NCIS
  • Local law enforcement
  • Inspector General
  • Equal opportunity advisors
  • Victim Witness Assistant Coordinators
  • Victim advocates
  • Behavioral health counselors
  • Military OneSource
  • DSTRESS Line

Here’s the entirety of Neller’s statement:

R 142224Z MAR 17
ALMAR 008/17
MSGID/GENADMIN/CMC WASHINGTON DC DMCS//
SUBJ/SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDANCE – UNOFFICIAL INTERNET POSTS//
REF/A/MSGID:DIR/DODI 8550.01/-//
REF/B/MSGID:DIR/DOD 5500.07-R/-//
REF/C/MSGID:DIR/DODD 1344.10/-//
REF/D/MSGID:SECNAVINST/5211.5E/-//
REF/E/MSGID:MCO/5239.2B/-//
REF/F/MSGID:MCO/3070.2A/-//
REF/G/MSGID:MCO/5230.18/-//
REF/H/MSGID:MARADMIN/0181-10 /-//
REF/I/MSGID:DODI/1325.06/-//
REF/J/MSGID:DIR/DODD 5400.11/-//
REF/K/MSGID: SECNAVINST 5720.44C/-//
REF/L/MSGID: MARADMIN 365/10/-//
REF/M/MSGID: MARADMIN 285/16/-//
NARR/REF A IS A DOD INSTRUCTION ON DOD INTERNET SERVICES AND INTERNET-BASED CAPABILITIES.  REF B IS THE DOD JOINT ETHICS REGULATION.  REF C IS THE DOD DIRECTIVE ON POLITICAL ACTIVITIES BY MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES.  REF D IS THE DON PRIVACY PROGRAM.  REF E IS THE MARINE CORPS CYBER SECURITY ORDER.  REF F IS THE MARINE CORPS OPERATIONS SECURITY PROGRAM.  REF G IS CLEARANCE OF DOD INFORMATION FOR PUBLIC RELEASE.  REF H IS THE MARADMIN FOR RESPONSIBLE AND EFFECTIVE USE OF INTERNET-BASED CAPABILITIES.  REF I IS THE DOD INSTRUCTION ON HANDLING DISSIDENT AND PROTEST ACTIVITIES AMONG MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES.  REF J IS THE DOD DIRECTIVE ON DOD PRIVACY PROGRAM.  REF K IS THE DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY PUBLIC AFFAIRS POLICY AND REGULATIONS.  REF L IS THE MARADMIN CONCERNING SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDANCE FOR UNOFFICIAL INTERNET POSTS.  REF M IS THE MARINE CORPS METHODS TO REPORT RETALIATION RESOURCES PROCESS.
POC/B. S. BARTELT/COL/OMCC/-/TEL: (703)614-8010/EMAIL:BRAD.S.BARTELT@USMC.MIL/
POC/R. A. LETTEER/CIV/C4 CY/-/TEL:(703)693-3490/EMAIL: RAY.LETTEER@USMC.MIL//
GENTEXT/REMARKS/1.  Refs A to M represent the DOD, DON, and Marine Corps policy regarding the boundaries of appropriate online conduct.  This ALMAR cancels and replaces ref L (MARADMIN 365/10).
2.  This ALMAR provides guidance for personnel who, in their personal capacity, desire to make unofficial posts on the internet regarding Marine Corps-related topics.  This ALMAR also provides guidance for Marines concerning unofficial online activity that has an adverse effect on good order and discipline within, or brings discredit upon, the armed forces.  Ref K provides guidance to Marines and Sailors regarding official posts on Navy and Marine Corps-related issues.
3.  Our Marines are often in the best position to share the Marine Corps story.  Marines are encouraged to responsibly engage in unofficial internet posting about the Marine Corps and Marine Corps related topics consistent with their professional expertise, personal experiences, or personal knowledge.  Additionally, Marines are encouraged to professionally and respectfully correct errors and misrepresentations made about the Marine Corps.
4.  In addition to ensuring Marine Corps content is accurate and appropriate, Marines must also be careful when posting Marine Corps-related content on social networking sites, blogs, or on other websites since the lines between Marines personal and professional lives often blur in the online space.  Marines represent the Marine Corps at all times, and their speech and conduct must consistently embody our core values and commitment to each other, our Corps, and our Nation.  Marines should therefore always use their best judgment and avoid inappropriate behavior.
5.  Marines must never engage in commentary or publish content on social networking platforms or through other forms of communication that harm good order and discipline or that bring discredit upon themselves, their unit, or the Marine Corps.  In other words, Marines should think twice before engaging in questionable online activities, and must avoid actions online that threaten the morale, operational readiness and security, or public standing of their units, or that compromise our core values.  Such commentary and content includes that which is defamatory, threatening, harassing, or which discriminates based on a persons race, color, sex, gender, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or other protected criteria.  This type of conduct may be punishable under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).  Existing orders and the UCMJ have long prohibited sexual or other harassment, fraternization, retaliation, reprisal, and hazing. Marines are reminded that their conduct, even off-duty or online, may violate Navy and Marine Corps orders and regulations. Finally, Article 134 prohibits a variety of offensive conduct, including indecent language, indecent conduct, and communicating a threat, and may also prohibit other neglects or disorders that are prejudicial to good order and discipline or Service-discrediting.
6.  In addition to Articles 92 and 134, other articles of the UCMJ punish conduct which constitutes disrespect or insubordination towards our civilian or military leadership (Articles 88 – 91), cruelty and maltreatment of Marines of lesser rank (Article 93), sexual misconduct related to indecent viewing, visual recording, or broadcasting (Article 120c), or conduct unbecoming an officer (Article 133).  Finally, inappropriate online conduct may also violate other state or Federal laws, and may expose Service members to civil liability.
7.  Marines who believe they have been subject to inappropriate online conduct and who would like to maintain their privacy are encouraged to report the misconduct to their chaplain or a Victims Legal Counsel.  Other resources include the Chain of Command, NCIS, Local Law Enforcement, Inspector General, Equal Opportunity Advisors, Victim Witness Assistant Coordinators, Victim Advocates, Behavioral Health Counselors, and Military OneSource.  Additionally, the Marine Corps DSTRESS Line 1-877-476-7734 provides anonymous phone and chat referral service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Marines who have witnessed prohibited conduct should report the misconduct to their Chain of Command.
8.  For detailed information and guidance regarding appropriate and safe online behavior, Marines and leaders of all levels should visit http:(slash)(slash)www.marines.mil/News/Social-Media/ and review the materials under “Social Media Guidelines.”
9.  Semper Fidelis, General Robert B. Neller, U.S. Marine Corps, Commandant of the Marine Corps.//

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