June 14, 2011 11:50 pm

Careless tweets cost lives, MOD warns

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Members of the British armed forces who gossip on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are being warned that “careless talk costs lives”, in a 21st century recycling of the slogan that adorned wartime posters 70 years ago.

The Ministry of Defence is posting a series of videos on YouTube to illustrate the risks of terrorists or other hostile forces hijacking seemingly innocent online status updates to cause harm in the real world.

Servicemen and their families might inadvertently give away planned operations, movements of troops and aircraft or the location of ships as they “tweet” and chat to their friends online, which the MOD says “could give the UK’s enemies the upper hand”.

“We want our men and women to embrace the use of sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube but also want them to be aware of the risks that sharing too much information may pose,” said Major General John Lorimer, the Chief of the Defence Staff’s spokesman. “You don’t always know who else is watching in cyberspace.”

To support this message, two recent YouTube videos show a balaclava-wearing terrorist drinking tea with the mother of an airman who uses Facebook, and dancing with navy personnel in a nightclub after they check in on Foursquare, a mobile location service.

The videos will build into a storyline, with more being posted to the MOD’s “DefenceHeadquarters” channel in the next month.

New recruits will also be taught to tone down their civilian social-media habits as part of their basic training.

The MOD is putting out its message of “think before you tweet” on Twitter and Facebook, as well as more traditional channels, such as the British Forces Broadcasting Service and Soldier magazine.

“We are not here to gag people because we acknowledge the ubiquity and significant benefits that social media offers to people and the MOD,” Major General Lorimer said. “These channels are vital to communicating in a digital age.”

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