“Honor, Courage, Commitment Online, All of the Time.”
The U.S. Navy defines online conduct as the use of electronic communications in an official or personal capacity that is consistent with Navy Values and standards of conduct. It is important that all Sailors know that once they have logged on to a social media platform, they still represent the U.S. Navy.
Online bullying, hazing, harassment, stalking, discrimination, retaliation, and any other type of behavior that undermines dignity and respect are not consistent with Navy core values and negatively impact the force.
When conducting themselves online and in social media, Sailors should:
-- Consider what messages are being communicated and how they could be received.
-- Create or share content that is consistent with Navy values.
-- Only post if messages or content demonstrate dignity and respect for self and others.
Explicit images taken without consent, or posted online without consent may constitute violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Further, Deputy Secretary of Defense Policy Memorandum, Hazing and Bullying Prevention and Response in the Armed Forces, December 23, 2015, identifies hazing as so-called initiations or rites of passage in which individuals are subjected to physical or psychological harm.”
It identifies bullying as, “acts of aggression intended to single out individuals from their teammates or coworkers, or to exclude them from a military element, unit or Department of Defense organization.” Additionally, the memo states that hazing and bullying are unacceptable and are prohibited in all circumstances and environments, including off duty or unofficial unit functions and settings, as well as on social media and other digital environments.
As outlined in the CNO’s Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority core attributes, the Navy is a values-based organization where everyone is expected to conduct themselves in a manner that is, “always upright and honorable, both in public or when no one is looking.”
Social media can be a positive tool for helping individuals with similar interests connect and interact. Sailors should take care to ensure they are not participating in online or social media groups that do not reflect Navy values, including groups that post graphic, obscene, explicit or racial comments, or groups posting comments that are abusive, hateful and vindictive, or intended to defame anyone or any organization.
Leaders should communicate social media expectations with their Sailors. It is important to outline unit policy, making sure Sailors know what they can and cannot do on social media.
Follow the UCMJ
Sailors using social media are subject to the UCMJ at all times, even when off duty. Commenting, posting or linking to material that violates the UCMJ may result in administrative or disciplinary action.
Punitive action may include Articles 88, 89, 91, 120b, 120c, 133 or 134 (General Article provisions, Contempt, Disrespect, Insubordination, Indecent Language, Communicating a threat, Solicitation to commit another Offense, and Child Pornography offenses), as well as other Articles.
Possible Legal Consequences
Electronic Harassment – 47 U.S.C. § 223 (a)(1)(C) makes it a crime to anonymously use a telecommunications device (i.e. telephone, computer, or other electronic device used for communication) to harass a person; 47 U.S.C § 223 (a)(1)(E) prohibits initiating communications via a telecommunications device solely to harass the recipient.
Electronic Threats – 18 U.S.C § 875 prohibits transmitting communications containing threats to kidnap or physically injure someone. It also criminalize as the actions of someone who, with intent to export (receive anything of value), electronically threatens to injure the property or reputation of a person. “Sextortion” indicates (being tricked into providing sexual images and then being asked for money to not have the images published online) may fall under provisions of this law.
Cyber Stalking – 18 U.S.C. § 2261A prohibits a person, with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate someone, from using a computer (or other digital communications system), to engage in actions (course of conduct) reasonably expected to cause a person (or immediate family member, spouse, or intimate partner) substantial emotional distress.
Obscenity – 47 U.S.C. § 223(a)(1)(A) prohibits using a telecommunications device to make, create, or solicit, and transmit any obscene comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication.
Child Exploitation / Child Sexual Exploitation – 18 U.S.C. § 2251, 2252, and 2252A. Using a computer (a smartphone is a “computer”) to solicit, make, create, transmit, or receive child pornography is illegal. For these provisions, a “child” is anyone under the age of 18. 18 U.S.C. § 1462 makes it a crime to transmit obscene matters. 18 U.S.C. § 1470 criminalizes the transfer of obscene materials, to include digital images, to persons under the age of 16. Sending sexually explicit (graphic “dirty” talk) electronic messages to minors, or soliciting sexually explicit communications, also are criminal offenses.
Computer Misuse (“Hacking”) – A person engaging in cyber misconduct may also commit violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1030, if, for example, he or she exceeds authorized access to the computer or accesses the computer without authorization (i.e. hacks into an account or network) to send the harassing, intimidating, humiliating, or even threatening communication.
Don’t Get Hacked – Tips for Safe Online Conduct
Sailors should be mindful of the following when engaging on social media:
-- Ask, “What could a person do with this information? Could it compromise the safety or integrity of myself, my shipmates or the Navy?”
-- Closely review photos or videos before posting to ensure sensitive or personal information is not released.
-- Look closely at all privacy settings. Platform security and privacy settings change frequently. Routinely check and update settings to be as restrictive as possible.
-- Change passwords every 60 days.
-- Do not share passwords.
Any member of the Navy community experiencing or witnessing incidents of improper online behavior should promptly report matters to their chain of command via the Command Managed Equal Opportunity (CMEO) or Fleet and Family Support Office. Additional avenues for reporting any information include Equal Employment Opportunity Offices and the Inspector General.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) encourages anyone with knowledge of criminal activity to report it to their local NCIS field office directly or via text, web, or smartphone app.
Specific instructions are available at: www.NCIS.navy.mil/reportacrime.
“Toxic behaviors…at work, at home, or on the internet — eat away at team cohesion and erode trust. Toxic behaviors cause us to hesitate, to second guess, to look over our shoulders instead of moving together at full speed. Toxic behaviors make us weaker; they cede advantage to the enemy. Toxic behaviors are NOT for winners, they are for losers. They have no place in our Navy.”
– Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson
Download this guide.