All quiet on the Western Tweet-front

Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook – these are names you find everywhere. Chances are, you’re using at least one of them. Unless you’re in the US Marines.

According to the Bulldog Reporter and Wired, the Marine Corps has officially banned the use of social media sites such as Twitter from its networks. The blockade will last a year, and authorities cite Internet security concerns as the primary reason. We can’t blame them for trying to be safe, but we do think the Marine Corps officials underestimate the benefits of social media.

Consider the countless deployed Marine troops who use Twitter or Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family back home. In addition to the lowered morale, we’d just be moving everyday communication into more shadowy forums, thereby opening more security concerns. By removing its presence from social media networks, the Marines higher-ups are alienating themselves from the core of their operation – the troops – not to mention introducing new issues of free speech.

Even the Pentagon sees the benefit of social media. The new “social media czar,” Price Floyd, has said that “we need to be everywhere men and women in uniform are and the public is.” Social media is also the key source of news from Iran, where other forms of media are greatly restricted. If anything, we should attack the Marine’s concerns at their source: we need to train the troops regarding discretion about location and operations, and then our main goal should be protecting free speech instead of limiting important methods of communication. The latter path is only ignoring a greater problem.