Admit it, if you came into work tomorrow and weren't able to log onto YouTube, you wouldn't be too thrilled with the prospect of eight hours a day without your fix of viral video. Now imagine your office was an Air Force Base in Ramstein, Germany or Kunsan, Korea...that's going to make for a long day at the office. Well, the Air Force doesn't really seem to care.
The Air Force, which recently blocked access on its internet servers to popular sites such as YouTube and MySpace, have now banned personnel from logging onto the military sanctioned YouTube alternative site, "TroopTube." Air Force personnel at fifteen foreign and domestic bases are now forbidden from visiting both the popular video sharing site and its alternative military-friendly site, which is marketed as a means for deployed troops to keep in touch with loved ones back home.
According to a report on Wired's Danger Room blog, visitors to these sites are greeted with a message reading: "Access is denied as this site is not currently approved for viewing due to content and/or security issues associated with potentially malicious file extensions."
TroopTube was created last year as a joint project between the Pentagon and Seattle-based Delve Networks as a higher bandwidth and security-friendly video sharing site for the camouflaged crowd. At the time of the site's launch, Delve's Chief Executive, Alex Castro told the Associated Press that his company was "excited to be doing something for the people who make sacrifices."
But some in the rank-and-file are not too happy with the latest ironic developments.
"It's bad enough they don't trust us with the ‘real' internet and social media sites, why don't they trust us with the sites they invent?" one civilian Air Force employee opined to Danger Room.
This isn't the first time the Air Force has taken flack for its Internet use policy. It was reported last year that Air Force servers were blocking access to blogs, and not just the lovably, snarky good government blogs, but all blogs. So if you were on an Air Force base halfway around the world and wanted to check on your favorite "Support The Troops" blog run by a couple of patriotic buddies from back home, well you couldn't. Because if the word "blog" was anywhere in the site's URL, it was automatically blocked, no questions asked. Even Buzz Bissinger would have to admit, this is a rather extreme policy.
So let us recap for all you Internet savvy Air Force employees: Blogs...blocked. Video sharing sites...blocked. Social networking sites...blocked. Military sponsored video sharing/social networking sites...blocked. We haven't seen that much censorship since the glory days of Lucy and Ricky sleeping in separate beds.
One has to note that not all Air Force officials are behind this policy. One senior official told Danger Room in an email, "When I hear stuff this utterly stupid, it makes me want to scream...Piles of torn out hair are accumulating around my desk as we speak." Considering most military types aren't known for their flowing locks to begin with, this cannot be good for the scalp of our frustrated soldier.
The powers-that-be in the Air Force have legitimate concerns about both cybersecurity and limited bandwidth -- concerns that should not be swept under the rug. But those that work on bases, some halfway around the world, deserve to have a little access to the outside from the comfort of their laptop.
The Air Force claims it is motivated purely by security and logistics. The military, however, has never been known for its progressive open-mindedness, so it is then fair to ask if those are the only motivations. Or is the Air Force trying to more tightly control the flow and tone of outside information reaching its employees? Security and open bandwidth are all well and good, but the Air Force would be well-served to remember the dangers of imposing the same kind of free speech restrictions it has helped to eradicate in formerly oppressed nations around the world. OhMyGov! will be keeping an eye on this story as it develops, if you are military personnel with something to add don't hesitate let us know. Just make sure no one followed you here.
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