Military members should use caution with political posts on social media

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- An online friend shares a humorous political post on your favorite social media site. You think it's funny and are tempted to post it to your wall.

If you're a military member, you may want to think twice before  sharing.

Active duty, Guard, and Reserve military members are subject to a host of rules when it comes to political actions and expression of political views.  The following rules apply to political expression of military members on social media sites:

*An active duty service member may generally express his or her own personal views on public issues or political candidates via social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs, much the same as they would be permitted to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper. If a social media site or post identifies the member as on active duty (or if the member is otherwise reasonably identifiable as an active duty member), then the entry will clearly and prominently state that the views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the Department of Defense (or Department of Homeland Security for members of the Coast Guard).

*An active duty military member may not, however, engage in any partisan political activity. Further, an active duty military member may not post or make direct links to a political party, partisan political candidate, campaign, group, or cause because such activity is the equivalent to distributing literature on behalf of those entities or individuals, which is prohibited.

*An active duty military member may become a friend of or like the Facebook page, or follow the Twitter account of a political party or partisan candidate, campaign, group or cause. However, active duty members will refrain from engaging in activities with respect to those entities' social media accounts that would constitute political activity. 

That would include, for example, suggesting that others like, friend, or follow the political party, partisan political candidate, campaign, group, or cause, or forwarding an invitation or solicitation from said entities to others.

*Active duty military members are subject to additional restrictions based on the Joint Ethics Regulation, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and service-specific rules, to include rules governing the use of government resources and governmental communications systems, such as email and internet usage. 

Members of the armed forces who are not on active duty status are not subject to the social media restrictions listed above so long as the member does not act in a manner that could reasonably create the perception or appearance of official sponsorship, approval or endorsement by the Defense Department or the member's service. 

Editor's note: For more information, call the base legal office at 478-926-9276.