The Pentagon unveiled new guidelines on “extremism” on Monday, including rules that clarify what kind of behaviors constitute “extremism.” The rules have been updated to reflect the social media era and now prohibit service members from “liking” or “sharing” social media posts from “extremist” groups.
On Monday, the Pentagon published an updated version of its Department of Defense Instruction 1325.06. The instruction defines “extremism” as:
(a) Advocating or engaging in unlawful force, unlawful violence, or other illegal means
to deprive individuals of their rights under the United States Constitution or the laws of the United
States, including those of any State, Commonwealth, Territory, or the District of Columbia, or any
political subdivision thereof.
(b) Advocating or engaging in unlawful force or violence to achieve goals that are
political, religious, discriminatory, or ideological in nature.
(c) Advocating, engaging in, or supporting terrorism, within the United States or abroad.
(d) Advocating, engaging in, or supporting the overthrow of the government of the
United States, or any political subdivision thereof, including that of any State, Commonwealth,
Territory, or the District of Columbia, by force or violence; or seeking to alter the form of these
governments by unconstitutional or other unlawful means (e.g., sedition).
(e) Advocating or encouraging military, civilian, or contractor personnel within the DoD
or United States Coast Guard to violate the laws of the United States, or any political subdivision
thereof, including those of any State, Commonwealth, Territory, or the District of Columbia, or to
disobey lawful orders or regulations, for the purpose of disrupting military activities (e,g.,
subversion), or personally undertaking the same.
(f) Advocating widespread unlawful discrimination based on race, color, national origin,
religion, sex (including pregnancy), gender identity, or sexual orientation.
In addition to existing guidelines like not distributing literature linked to “extremist” groups or words, flags or symbols of those groups, the updates to the instruction now describe what types of social media activity would be considered prohibited.
The updated instruction states, “Engaging in electronic and cyber activities regarding extremist activities, or groups that support extremist activities – including posting, liking, sharing, re-tweeting, or otherwise distributing content – when such action is taken with the intent to promote or otherwise endorse extremist activities. Military personnel are responsible for the content they publish on all personal and public Internet domains, including social media sites, blogs, websites, and applications.”
The instruction also prohibits “knowingly accessing internet web sites or other materials that promote or advocate extremist activities” and “
displaying paraphernalia, words, or symbols in support of extremist
activities or in support of groups or organizations that support extremist activities” such as flags, clothing, tattoos and bumper stickers.
During a press briefing, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said, “This isn’t about political leanings or partisan inclinations. It’s about activity. It’s about prohibited extremist activity and active participation in that activity.”
Kirby said, “There’s no monitoring of social media. There’s no ability for the department of defense to monitor the social media content of every member of the armed forces, and even if there was, that’s not the intent here.”
Kirby refused to discuss hypothetical punishments, saying that “commanders will have to make that call on their own.”
Kirby also said there’s “no federal list of extremist groups” and that the DoD didn’t establish one.