DOD asked to reevaluate social networking sites ban

The Department of Defense has banned the use of social networking sites by soldiers in Iraq, but a U.S. Representative has asked the Department to reconsider its policy

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) has asked the Department of Defense to reconsider its decision to block military access to social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube.

Earlier this week, the DoD blocked access to some social networking sites on its computers, saying use of the sites, where soldiers share photos, videos, and audio recordings with family and friends back home, could clog the military's networks and present a potential security issue.

However, in a May 15 letter to the Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Markey said he didn't understand how blocking those sites would improve network efficiency.

"If network congestion was an issue, for instance, it is surprising that no bandwidth-intensive gaming sites are on the list of prohibited sites,"

Markey said in the letter. "I believe the military should have opted to ration any scarce bandwidth resources it was encountering rather than summarily blocking access by U.S. troops completely."

A DoD spokesman said a response was being prepared to Markey's letter.

"We have received the congressman's letter and are developing a response. However, as a matter of policy, we don't discuss the specifics of correspondence intended for Congress, so it would be inappropriate to comment," said Air Force Major Patrick Ryder in a statement e-mailed to Computerworld.

"In regards to the issue of DoD's decision to block certain recreational Web sites, I can tell you that this step was taken to ensure DoD computer networks are available for combat operations and critical support activities."

Ryder said also said that in Iraq and Afghanistan, many recreational sites, as well as others, have been blocked by the DoD for more than two years, some for as long as four years.

"Consequently, this directive does not prevent deployed DoD personnel from communicating with family members or loved ones," he said. "There are a wide variety of commercial communication services, such as e-mail, telephone calls, and video teleconferencing at many locations in Southwest Asia."

In a press briefing Friday, Rear Adm. Elizabeth Hight, vice director, Defense Information Systems Agency, said the DoD decided to block access to the sites based on the volume of traffic moving from DoD networks to the Internet in addition to security reasons. She added that more sites could be blocked in the future.

"So as that technology has grown and the use of that technology has grown for recreational services, I would say we're also seeing that technology grow for official uses," she said. "So we just simply cannot accommodate the growth in the bandwidth demands of this newer technology for both official reasons and recreational sites."

This story, "DOD asked to reevaluate social networking sites ban" was originally published by Computerworld.

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