The Marine Corps has updated its social media policy after a report revealed hundreds of active and retired service members may have been involved in trading revenge porn and making sexual comments about fellow service members in a Facebook group.
Marines United had around 30,000 members at the time it was taken down, and group members' activities have prompted multiple investigations within the military. Marine Corps commandant Gen. Robert Neller has promised accountability, and on Friday, he sent a message to Marines on their personal social media use.
In his message, Neller laid out the consequences of posting on social media in a way that violated the corps' values, threatened morale, or hurt operational readiness. Previously, Marines were told their personal social media posts were a reflection on the corps, but the policy didn't specify how questionable posts could lead to court-martial or other discipline.
"Marines are reminded that their conduct, even off-duty or online, may violate Navy and Marine Corps orders and regulations," Neller said.
Public attention to the group's activities has sparked heated debates among veterans and those currently serving. A number of Marines have answered Neller's call to come forward with any information that could help the investigation, the Wall Street Journal reported. Meanwhile, others have criticized leadership's response as out of character for the famously rough-and-tumble corps.
In his message, Neller pointed to the sections of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that applied, including prohibitions on disrespect or insubordination toward leadership, cruelty and maltreatment of Marines of lesser rank, conduct unbecoming to an officer, and sexual misconduct.
"Marines who believe they have been subject to inappropriate online conduct and who would like to maintain their privacy are encouraged to report the misconduct to their chaplain or a Victims Legal Counsel," he said.
Neller has previously said he believes all Marines should know that sexual harassment, hazing, and other indecent behavior is against the corps' standards. A task force is also examining what changes may be made to training and policies that could keep misconduct like what's alleged to have happened in Marines United from happening again.
Taking peeping tom or other illicit photos of a person is prohibited by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but no provision specifically bars revenge porn. Last week, Rep. Jackie Speier of California introduced a bill to close what she describes a loophole. If passed, her legislation would ban sharing sexual photos of a person without that person's consent.
Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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