04 March 2009

Engaging YouTube

New media is about much more than simply blogs. YouTube has taken the world by storm and over the past few years it has grown to be much more than just posting random goofiness. People now post messages, short films or animation they have created, trailers for movies, and footage from their combat experiences. Current Army policy bans the use of YouTube on government computers claiming excessive bandwidth needs. However, some Army leaders believe that YouTube offers distinct advantages to getting messages out and countering insurgent videos and propaganda.

The Army recently launched its own version of YouTube called TroopTube. The Army pitches it as a way to boost morale for deployed Soldiers by providing a site to send video messages back and forth with home. While TroopTube is not a bad idea it will not replace YouTube for three reasons. First, this new video site cannot compete with the YouTube brand name - people know it, go to it, talk about it and it offers something that appeals to nearly everyone. TroopTube, on the other hand, is focused on a narrow topic and a small group of people. Secondly, it requires an account which, although available to anyone (not just military members) will turn some people away. Finally, it is censored. Instead of simply trusting Soldiers and family members to post responsibly, videos can be edited and must be approved. While this is not inherently a bad thing – the Army should absolutely do its best to project a positive image - the perception that this censorship creates is potentially harmful.

TroopTube will not get videos seen around the world by a broad audience - only YouTube will be able to do this. If the Army is to capitalize on new media, it must authorize use of the new media. If more control is desired, use of YouTube is best restricted to particular people in an organization such as PAOs or unit commanders. Just as with blogs, the Army must educate Soldiers to understand how OPSEC applies to all things posted to the internet and techniques to prepare videos that will capture people's attention and convey the important messages that need to be told.

The two elements of new media that offer the largest advantage to the Army are blogs and YouTube. Other popular social networking sites have little to offer the Army as it seeks new ways to get its story told to the public. While they offer a way to remain connected with friends and family, this is not much beyond an individual or recreational benefit and the policy toward these sites should remain as it currently is written. Policy on blogs and YouTube, however, needs to be revised.

1 comment:

  1. Jake,
    I agree with your discussion above about YouTube, though getting a handle on the OPSEC piece will be difficult. I do think however that Facebook, Twitter, etc. do have a lot to offer the Army besides recreational. I think it can be used as a valuable recruiting tool to put the Army's message out to multiple people while still providing a forum for answering questions, much like a blog but a different avenue. I know that the Information Operations Proponent has a Facebook page to share news with other IO officers allowing communication with people you may never come into contact with otherwise. Just some thoughts. You can tell I don't want to give up my Facebook!

    MAJ Benef Verell