A new Oxford University study confirms what many service members with Facebook accounts already have known: Spammers, trolls and Russian bots have a knack for targeting troops and veterans.
The military has developed a love-hate relationship with social media. The ease of information-sharing is great for deployed service members, recruiters and others. But it’s also created headaches for others when images of West Point cadets in Che Guevara T-shirts show up on Instagram, or the latest national security hot spot is brought to a boil via Twitter.
The military offers training to keep troops inline while online: a hyper-political 2016 led to multiple restatements of DoD policy and concerns over operational security have led to some clever reminders, from cult to classic.
But rarely do the training programs stress the need to sort fact from fiction. Young troops who’ve used Facebook to navigate their teenage years likely aren’t expecting their feeds to clog up with words like “alt-right” and “antifa” and “anthem protest.”
Nobody’s asking DoD to take sides in great philosophical debates, or suggesting that troops need to be protected from what they read. But some basics in separating the substance from the spam, or the Russian bots from the real news, wouldn’t hurt.
If it’s worth reminding troops to watch what they put online, it’s worth a bit of guidance on what they take in.