Air Force warns: ‘Loose tweets destroy fleets’

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — During World War II, it was lips. Today, it’s tweets.

The delivery method has changed, but unguarded talk is still a concern in the military.

By giving a 21st-century treatment to a classic World War II propaganda poster, the U.S. Air Force’s Central Command is telling Airmen to be careful about what they post on social media channels.

The command recently created an advisory in the form of a photo illustration that includes the phrase, “Loose Tweets Destroy Fleets” in bold letters. The illustration, which features some F-16s from Hill Air Force Base, was inspired by World War II-era posters that bore the celebrated “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships” slogan.

Those posters, which according to Wikipedia were created by the War Advertising Council, were intended to deter service members and other citizens from speaking about ship movements. The fear was that the chatter might be overheard by spies, who could then relay the information to U.S. enemies.

Today, Air Force officials say, information published by service members on social media has the potential for danger. 

“As social media keeps evolving and there’s more and more avenues to let your friends and family know what you are up to, those same avenues can be used by ISIS sympathizers,” said Capt. Jonathan McDonald in a press release from Central Command’s public affairs team.

McDonald said “lone wolves” can use information posted on social media to track down and possibly harm service members when they venture outside the security gates of a military installation.

“Not only is it important to not post vital mission-related information,” he said to Airmen in the press advisory. “It’s also important to not post detailed personal information. It’s vital to check your security settings to make sure that just your friends are able to see what you post, and remember to be smart about what you post and share.”

McDonald’s admonition is backed by some recent evidence. In December 2014, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a security bulletin noting that the Islamic State group was publicly encouraging attacks against law enforcement and military service members.

In January, a group claiming to be ISIS hacked the social media accounts of the U.S. military command overseeing operations in the Middle East and threatened American soldiers.

“American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back, ISIS,” was a message posted by the hackers on the Central Command’s Twitter feed.

Hill spokesman Micah Garbarino said the Air Force has developed guides for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkdIn and Google+ that show Airmen how to lock down their social media profiles.

“The Air Force encourages all of its members and their dependents to utilize those tools,” Garbarino said.

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