PSA – About Online Conduct

Messy military lawyer, today’s PSA involves online conduct mostly. I’m going to be tailoring this to the Army folks out there because in July of 2020, Army command policy was amended under AR 600-20. And there have been some pretty significant expansions into what can be considered misconduct, especially for online conduct.

Obviously, a lot of things going on right now in politics. People are discussing it, some people doing it in a very nice and collegial way. But I want to reinforce that the Army has a new, relatively new program about harassment and responding to harassment. And they’ve even added a provision in July of 2020, specifically about online misconduct. Okay? And this is under paragraph four, tack 19, sub paragraph five. Understand that with all the nuances that are involved in bullying and other types of harassment that happen face to face, the Army has specified that what is prohibited is conduct from soldiers and DA civilians against other service members, right?

Against other soldiers. Online misconduct, I don’t read it that way. I think it’s anybody. And I’ve had clients who have had to answer the mail about discourse on Twitter and comments and kind of really drilling down on certain people, not saying their points weren’t valid. Not saying they don’t have a first amendment right to speech, but that is abridged. And so I want to just kind of cite to this right now. So, online misconduct includes the use of electronic information to inflict harm, right? And harm is obviously very much in the eye of the beholder. It includes electronic communications, via text message, email chats, instant messaging, screen savers, blogs, social media sites, electronic device applications, and web and video conferencing. Examples of online misconduct include, but are not limited to hazing, bullying, harassment, discriminatory harassment, stalking, retaliation, or any other types of misconduct that undermines dignity and respect.

That’s the big one. That’s the one you could drive a truck through. That’s the one that if somebody really wants to, and you know, especially from yesterday’s PSA, I want to be very clear, like people may be getting away with saying things that probably violate policy all day long. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t violate policy. Where people run into situations is when somebody gets mad enough at you that they will use their online skills, they will find you right? They will find you, they will find your command, and they will report to you. And oh, by the way, in 4-19 of AR 600-20, they’ve added a provision that encourages people to rat. Yep.

You heard it right? Personnel experiencing or witnessing online misconduct that is inconsistent with the Army values should promptly report matters to the chain of command or supervision. Alternative avenues for reporting include family support services, military equal opportunity, equal employment opportunity, sexual harassment, assault response, and prevention, and army law enforcement. Be safe out there. Miltok. Be safe.

Jocelyn Stewart is a UCMJ court-martial attorney who specializes in defense of allegations of sexual assault for all branches of the military worldwide.

Contact the Law Office of Jocelyn C. Stewart at 253-212-958

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