All Quiet on the Digital Front

| Wed May 2, 2007 4:50 PM EDT

With the bounty of cell-phone-camera footage and blog accounts uploaded out of Iraq (see here and here), the accumulating online absurdities of war feel like a Vonnegut novel being written in real time.

Samantha Shapiro, in a profile of teen anti-war animator Ava Lowery in Mother Jones, describes the new phenomenon:

If the innovation of cable news shaped the representation of the first Gulf War, then this war is partly being defined by another new form of media, one practiced by amateur diarists and commentators. Soldiers blog and upload their footage to Google Video or YouTube more quickly than the government can pull it down.

No one understands this better than the Army, which felt the need to enact stricter rules, effective as of April 19, governing what soldiers can put up on the web.

Since 2005--when the Army first tried to reign in the explosion of unofficial "mili-blogs" citing their potential to reveal classified, and otherwise unflattering, information--active duty soldiers in Iraq have been required to register their blogs with a commanding officer. A special unit of the Virginia National Guard is tasked with monitoring "official and unofficial Army Web sites for operational security violations." Meanwhile, in March, the Army started its own YouTube channel so its version of the "boots on the ground perspective" could reach cyberspace.

The language of the most recent regulations require that soldiers' posts go through an operational security review prior to being published. The previous policy only required soldiers to consult with their commanding officer before launching a blog, not posting. Moreover, the new restriction extends the same level of scrutiny to soldiers who have returned home, whose web sites, blog postings, and message board discussions will now come under review, essentially putting the kabbash on the most honest accounts of a war where politicized proclamations of success and failure tend to wander from reality.

-Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

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