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British military encouraged to get online

Ministry of Defence issues a 13-page guidebook encouraging military personnel to use blogs, social networks, and online games to tell their stories--within limits.

As professional organizations become increasingly guarded about employees' use of social networks, British troops are actually being encouraged to use social media to talk about what they do--within limits, of course.

The Ministry of Defence has issued its Online Engagement Guidelines (PDF), 13 pages of recommendations for keeping in touch with friends and family via blogs, social networks, virtual worlds, and multiplayer games without endangering military personnel and activities.

The statement says, "Current and emerging Internet technologies, such as simple self-publishing, sharing of user-generated content, and social networking, are of growing importance to Service and MOD civilian personnel in their personal and professional lives." And the guidelines say service and MOD civilian personnel are free to talk about what they do for a living, so long as the content regards "factual, unclassified, uncontroversial non-operational matters." They must gain authorization from their chain of command if they wish to publish anything that relates to military operations, gives opinions about Armed Forces' activities, speaks on behalf of the service, or discusses "controversial, sensitive, or political matters." The guidelines even suggest that some employees should consider creating officially sponsored online presences to help communicate their work to the public.

Amid a litany of advice about what information should and should not be divulged under varying circumstances, the guide also reminds people to have a little fun, saying "Enjoy yourself. You have a great story to tell, and are the best person to tell it."

The announcement comes as the U.S. Marine Corps, and organizations including ESPN and some professional sports teams have put limits on how employees can use social media networks--if not banned the sites altogether.