A Warfighter’s online behavior can affect his or her military career, so it’s important to maintain a respectful online presence. According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), inappropriate use of social media can lead to punishable consequences. While UCMJ doesn’t include specific language about social media, keep in mind that general punitive codes might be applied to harmful conduct online.
Examples of online conduct unbecoming of Service Members are often made public through news and media. There’s no reasonable expectation of privacy on social media forums, where actions and behaviors can be witnessed by others—and subsequently reported for disciplinary action. Remember: Service Members are never off-duty when representing the country and those who honorably served before them. Social media use comes with both benefits and dangers to consider as well. Young Service Members have grown up with social media as a constant presence in their lives, while older generations still might feel like they’re navigating unchartered territory. It can be difficult to recognize what constitutes a punishable offense. Posting derogatory comments about superior officers, disparaging the president and other government officials, and commenting inappropriately with offensive, discriminatory, or racist language are all punishable offenses.
Current events have inspired many to share their views and engage in discussions about what matters to them. The guiding principle for appropriate behavior should be rooted in the honor and respect deserved by the uniform. Warfighters represent the best our country has to offer, and their online conduct and etiquette always should reflect high standards.
Visit the DoD Social Media Hub for updated policies and links to social media portals for each service branch. And learn more about behavior that’s punishable by UCMJ: