FOI, Facebook, MySpace and the MoD

Facebook and MySpace are at the centre of a new media offensive in the Government's battle to win the PR campaign over unpopular conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Documents released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) under the Freedom of Information Act show that ministers are concerned that overwhelming public opinion is opposed to "operations in Iraq" and that there is only a slim majority in favour of Britain's military role in Afghanistan.

A series of negative stories concerning poor equipment, accommodation and pay has been fuelled by soldiers using social networking sites and video-sharing sites, such as YouTube, to publicise their own grievances. The MoD warns that "more discipline" and "greater enforcement" of military conduct rules is necessary to tackle "the publishing of unauthorised content on unofficial channels . . ."

One strategy paper published in August last year acknowledges that "internal communications has tended to take second place to our engagement with the media. Yet our own people are our most effective advocates in promoting our activities, and they can be our most damaging critics."
For military personnel who continue to breach the rules and use the internet to publish unauthorised video footage or complain about their lot, it could mean a court martial and dismissal from the Armed Forces.

Freedom Of Information: Facebook – the new battleground in Iraq and Afghanistan (The Independent, 8 February 2008)