Social media continues to be a hot topic of debate in many tried cases, raising questions about the legal validity of Facebook posts, tweets and comments on web sites as evidence.
Unlike most American citizens, members of the military are held to the highest of standards and the proper use of social media is of particular concern. Not only does social media have the potential to tarnish your reputation, but also the reputation of those associated with you and the upstanding moral code of the military as a whole. For this reason, improper use of social media can certainly be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
In a now-famous case of social media and the military, the presiding judge over Bradley Manning—the private under allegations for submitting information to the WikiLeaks scandal—may consider social media posts in her decision.
Furthermore, social media use by soldiers has led to litigation. This past July, a Navy soldier—allegedly intoxicated—posted inappropriate comments on a photo of a woman who stated she was a recent Navy recruit. The comment, which contains an expletive and a mention of rape, has been taken by the Navy as a threat of sexual assault.
Members of the military must recognize that their activity on social media is a reflection of themselves and their service. Your actions, whether in person or on social media, can now be well documented and in many cases used against you in a court-martial hearing.
The first step is responsibility. Know that your actions and comments come with real costs, and are not to be taken lightly. For sure, you should be concerned your social media use can contribute or detract from your court-martial hearing, so march smartly, and contact a military defense lawyer if you are under investigation.