by C.G. Lynch

The Trouble with Banning Twitter

Aug 06, 2009 2 mins
Enterprise Applications

While the Marines had good reasons to ban Twitter, other organizations shouldn't follow its path.

The news that the Marines have banned Twitter, Facebook and other social networks shouldn’t be surprising, especially given the nature of the military and the amount of information it must keep secret. But it does serve as a stark reminder that these technologies enable a level of transparency that’s unprecedented, an issue organizations of all kinds will grapple with for years to come.

The Marines seemed to have legitimate reasoning for the ban. According to a report in Wired, the U.S. Marine Corps said, “these internet sites in general are a proven haven for malicious actors and content, and are particularly high risk due to information exposure, user generated content and targeting by adversaries.”

But I wonder if the military couldn’t have crafted some special applications that would have allowed Marines to connect with friends and family on Facebook or Twitter, while keeping the data of the military’s network safe. In addition, it strikes me as an area where user-education around information sharing would also help remedy the situation.

Yesterday, I wrote a piece on how to write a Twitter policy. We examined how difficult it can be to let your employees connect with others, while protecting your company’s assets at the same time. There is not a perfect policy that will work for everyone; it will vary depending on industry and the employess who work there.

A military Twitter policy would be very complex. You’d have to factor in the security weaknesses of social networks, and put tight restrictions around people tweeting their location or other sensitive topics. We have to imagine the Marines saw no way around these hurdles, and viewed the ban as the best option.

But for other organizations (with less at stake), it would be foolish to pursue a ban. For every employee that accidentally leaks a business deal on Twitter, four others connect with people that day who bring in new business.

In the end, what you could potentially lose by having your employees on Twitter is far outweighed by what you can gain.