Marine Corps updates social media guidance to address online misconduct

As its revenge porn scandal continues to unfurl, the Marine Corps took steps this week to bolster its standards for online behavior.

Following a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller signed off on a set of guidelines that expand the definition of sexual harassment to include online activity. Just like with offline infractions, Marines deemed to violate these new rules could be subject to punishment in a military court.

Of particular relevance, the updated social media guidance covering “unofficial internet posts” adds language prohibiting “sexual misconduct related to indecent viewing, visual recording, or broadcasting,” broad language that likely applies to the Marines United situation.

“Marines must never engage in commentary or publish content on social networking platforms or through other forms of communication that harm good order and discipline or that bring discredit upon themselves, their unit, or the Marine Corps,” the guidelines state. Marines are also subject to the guidance in the division’s more comprehensive social media handbook.

Still, critics doubt the USMC’s commitment to investigating and prosecuting those in violation. As many female service members have pointed out, sexual harassment has thrived in the Marine Corps for years, and the revelations that the Marines United Facebook group shared nude photos of female Marines is just a symptom of a larger, systemic issue — one that isn’t new and might not be going anywhere any time soon.