May 16th, 2007 by Lloyd Gofton
As you may have seen, US military personnel or “milbloggers”, have had their web activity restricted.
The restrictions mean milbloggers must submit blog entries to supervising officers before posting them.
Furthermore, the US defense department has now announced it is blocking access from military computers to 13 communal websites, including YouTube and MySpace, to reduce the drain on computer capacity caused by downloading videos on these sites. Although troops can still use these sites through their personal ISPs.
In the case of restricting military personnel blogging, is this an extreme example of trying to control the conversation, rather than getting involved in it? Could the US military actually have done with some consultancy on the positive aspects of the blogosphere? Is this a missed opportunity to gain real insight into the daily lives of military personnel and perhaps even achieve some much needed support?
I can understand the argument that military personnel can’t publish operational details that put others at risk, but that hasn’t been an issue up until the ban, so is this a case of overkill to regain control?
What about the positivity that milbloggers have created, allowing people to understand the lives of military personnel and even experience some of the good work that they do, such as food aid, clearing mines, disaster relief, etc.
The major reason for this change of heart seems to be the result of this year’s Blooker Prize (the best book of the year based on a blog), which was won by Colby Buzzell, former US soldier, for â€œMy War: Killing Time in Iraqâ€ based on his blog that detailed his experiences of active duty in Iraq.
According to Ed Pilkington’s piece in the Guardian: “Buzzell rapidly built up a huge following and was profiled in the media. However, after six weeks an order came down that his blog should be stopped, without any explanation.”
The UK military has placed similar restrictions on books from former UK forces personnel, and more recently British service personnel were stopped from selling their stories to the media in the wake of the release of a group of British Sailors and Marines who had been held in Iran, one of whom profited from selling her story, as overviewed in The Times.
However, the rules have not spread to blogging in the British military yet, as far as I can find, but it will probably only be a matter of time.