Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Pentagon Troop-Morale Site Censors Political Messages

Filed under
Web

The Defense Department has removed messages containing political commentary from a Web site designed for people to show their support for U.S. forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most of the postings at americasupportsyou.mil express love and encouragement -- "The greatest nation in the world is kept that way by men and women like you," reads one message from a family in Maryland -- without partisan asides.

But among the 60,000-plus messages were at least a few dozen -- located using the site's search function -- that equated troop support with backing the Bush administration's political goals. Still others lambasted Democratic politicians including Sens. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and Edward M. Kennedy (Mass).

A message sent by Stephanie A. Chalkey of Oceanside, Calif., "aka: Proud Republican," said: "I thank you Mr. President for all you have done and standing up to the one's [sic] who don't believe in you. My theory is that if they don't like it here; we will pay their way out. Can you put that in the budget? :-)"

Another by Jan Stout of Las Cruces, N.M., said: "I show my support verbally in public and by donations to the RNC and reelect George W. Bush campaigns." Both of these messages, visible on the site two weeks ago, are now gone.

The decision to remove such messages reflects a policy posted on the site last week that warns readers that political speech will be barred.

"We are not including messages with political commentary -- pro or con," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary and creator of the Web site. "Frankly, this a site to support the troops and thankfully, our men and women in the military volunteer to defend our country no matter who is in political office."

Previously, the staff used its judgment to decide which messages would be published, Barber said in an interview conducted before the policy was displayed on the site.

The messages are reviewed by college interns, but Barber said full-time staff members decide which ones will be posted online.

Since the new policy was adopted, many messages, including all those found two weeks ago by washingtonpost.com using search terms such as "George Bush," "RNC" and "John Kerry," have been removed.

At the time this story was published, several messages remained on the site that both support and oppose the Bush administration and the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Gary" from Flint, Mich., writes: "We very much support the troops serving but do not support the administration's handling of the conflicts where they are currently asked to serve. Please, bring them home as soon as possible."

"I verbally reinforce the actions of our administration when the occasion arises, which seems much more frequent than warranted," writes Robert E. Belville, Jr. of Beaumont, Tex. "I am a Viet Nam-era veteran who still despises the inappropriate actions of some during that conflict."

Posting political content on a taxpayer-financed, government-run Web site may not violate any rules, several experts said, but they warned that it creates an image problem.

The military "should not be seen as promoting a political agenda," said Larry Noble, head of the Center for Responsive Politics and former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission.

Jonah Seiger, co-founder of ConnectionsMedia.com, which develops online campaign strategies for Democratic candidates, said posting political messages on the site could amount to tacit endorsement.

The Hatch Act forbids federal employees from supporting candidates and being politically active in their workplace, but experts said it is unclear how it would apply to messages from the public on sites such as americasupportsyou.mil.

Nevertheless, "It's questionable if a government-sponsored site is expending both taxpayer money and government employee time solely to burnish one party at the expense of another," said Larry Purpuro, founder of RightClick Internet strategies, which develops online strategies for Republican campaigns.

Barber, the chief of Defense Department communications, launched the site last November.

It attracted mass attention when President Bush urged people to leave messages there during a speech he gave at Fort Bragg, N.C., in late June. According to the Web site, people have so far left more than 127,000 messages, of which more than 60,000 have been edited and published. The site also displays hundreds of messages from U.S. service people back to their supporters.

Previously, messages to the troops were rejected if they were deemed abusive or non-supportive, Barber said.

Defense Department officials removed at least two messages from the site last month, the Wall Street Journal reported. Barber's office also oversees American Forces Radio and Television, the Pentagon Channel, the American Forces Press Service, the Defense Department's Internet operations and the Stars and Stripes newspaper.

The American Forces Radio and Television service was the target of scrutiny last year after CNN reported that the government-funded network broadcast one hour of the "Rush Limbaugh Show" every weekday. Barber told CNN that the service also broadcasts 1,200 other programs, including selections from National Public Radio.

By Robert MacMillan and Mary Specht
washingtonpost.com

More in Tux Machines

Ubuntu Budgie 18.04 Beta 2, Replacement for gksu

  • The Unique Ubuntu Budgie 18.04 Beta 2
    It is the most unique among the Official Flavors in the 18.04. It's the only to bring Chromium browser, and it gives you the unique Budgie Desktop experiences. It is really a good place for everyone who wants new, distinct desktop experience with modern version of software and broad space to explore. And ultimately it is still available for 32 bit, which has been abandoned by Ubuntu original. We will wait until the planned release on April 26.
  • Welcome To The (Ubuntu) Bionic Age: Behind communitheme: interviewing Frederik
    My name is Frederik, I live in Germany and I am working as a java software developer in my daily job. I am using Ubuntu since 5 years and quickly started to report bugs and issues when they jumped into my face. Apart from that, I like good music, and beautiful software. I also make my own music in my free time.
  • gksu Removed From Ubuntu, Here's The Recommended Replacement
    gksu is used to allow elevating your permissions when running graphical applications, for example in case you want to run a graphical text editor as root to edit a system file, or to be able to remove or add a file to a system folder.
  •  

Devices: Aaeon, Tizen and Android

OSS Leftovers

  • Open source crucial to Orange as it prepares for ONAP deployment
    Orange has long played a key part in the testing and adoption of ONAP, dating back to when its ECOMP predecessor was created by AT&T as a platform for managing a software-defined network. The move to open source and its development as the ONAP project has made the platform a key component of the new telco open networking movement. But why should other telcos look to ONAP as they embark on their network transformation strategies, and how does it help enable the automated network that will lead to new business opportunities?
  • Lessons from OpenStack Telemetry: Deflation
    At some point, the rules relaxed on new projects addition with the Big Tent initiative, allowing us to rename ourselves to the OpenStack Telemetry team and splitting Ceilometer into several subprojects: Aodh (alarm evaluation functionality) and Panko (events storage). Gnocchi was able to join the OpenStack Telemetry party for its first anniversary.
  • Dev-tools in 2018
    This is a bit late (how is it the middle of April already?!), but the dev-tools team has lots of exciting plans for 2018 and I want to talk about them! [...] We're creating two new teams - Rustdoc, and IDEs and editors - and going to work more closely with the Cargo team. We're also spinning up a bunch of working groups. These are more focused, less formal teams, they are dedicated to a single tool or task, rather than to strategy and decision making. Primarily they are a way to let people working on a tool work more effectively. The dev-tools team will continue to coordinate work and keep track of the big picture.
  • Nonny de la Peña & the Power of Immersive Storytelling
    This week, we’re highlighting VR’s groundbreaking potential to take audiences inside stories with a four part video series. There aren’t many examples of creators doing that more effectively and powerfully than Nonny de la Peña. Nonny de la Peña is a former correspondent for Newsweek, the New York Times and other major outlets. For more than a decade now, de la Peña has been focused on merging her passion for documentary filmmaking with a deep-seeded expertise in VR. She essentially invented the field of “immersive journalism” through her company, Emblematic Group.
  • Collabora Online 3.2 Brings More Powerful Features to LibreOffice in the Cloud
    Michael Meeks of the Collabora Productivity has the pleasure of informing Softpedia today on the availability of Collabora Online 3.2, the second point release of the Collabora Online 3 series that promises yet another layer of new features and improvements to the enterprise-ready, cloud-based office suite. Based on the LibreOffice 6.1 open-source office suite, Collabora Online 3.2 introduces support for creating and inserting charts into Writer and Impress documents, and the ability to validate data in Calc, which might come in handy for engineers who want to do a final assembly inspection on their tablets, as well as to collaborate with their colleagues to ensure all tests are passed by a complete product.
  • Oracle demands dev tear down iOS app that has 'JavaScript' in its name
    Oracle, claims developer Zhongmin Steven Guo, has demanded that Apple remove an app he created because it contains the trademarked term "JavaScript." The app in question, published by Guo's Tyanya Software LLC – which appears to be more a liability shield than a thriving software business – is titled "HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, HTML, Snippet Editor." The name, Guo explains in a Hacker News comment, was chosen in an effort to "game the App Store ranking by adding all the keywords to the app name."
  • FoundationDB is Open Source
    Starting today, FoundationDB starts its next chapter as an open source project! FoundationDB is a distributed datastore, designed from the ground up to be deployed on clusters of commodity hardware. These clusters scale well as you add machines, automatically heal from hardware failures, and have a simple API. The key-value store supports fully global, cross-row ACID transactions. That's the highest level of data consistency possible. What does this mean for you? Strong consistency makes your application code simpler, your data models more efficient, and your failure modes less surprising. The great thing is that FoundationDB is already well-established — it's actively developed and has years of production use. We intend to drive FoundationDB forward as a community project and we welcome your participation.
  • Apple Open Sources FoundationDB, Releases Code On GitHub
    Back in 2015, Apple bought FoundationDB, a NoSQL database company. It created a distributed database of the same name designed to deal with large masses of structured data across clusters of servers. In a recent development, Apple has shared the FoundationDB core and turned it into an open source project.
  • Microsoft offers limited-time 30 percent discount on SQL Server on Linux [Ed: Microsoft is googlebombing Linux again and as I predicted it would be done only to help Microsoft sell malicious proprietary software. Mary Jo Foley is like Microsoft marketing at CBS. In this case she promotes proprietary software. She also says "SQL Server on Linux" (no such thing exists, it's an illusion).]
  • Friday Free Software Directory IRC meetup time: April 20th starting at 12:00 p.m. EDT/16:00 UTC
    Help improve the Free Software Directory by adding new entries and updating existing ones. Every Friday we meet on IRC in the #fsf channel on irc.freenode.org. Tens of thousands of people visit directory.fsf.org each month to discover free software. Each entry in the Directory contains a wealth of useful information, from basic category and descriptions, to providing detailed info about version control, IRC channels, documentation, and licensing info that has been carefully checked by FSF staff and trained volunteers.
  • Researchers deliver open-source simulator for cyber physical systems
    Cyber physical systems (CPS) are attracting more attention than ever thanks to the rapid development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its combination with artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the cloud. These interacting networks of physical and computational components will provide the foundation of critical infrastructure, form the basis of ‘smart’ services, and improve the quality of life in areas ranging from energy and environment to transportation and healthcare. CPS technologies are already transforming the way people interact with engineered systems in the ‘real’ or ‘physical’ world, just as the internet has transformed the way people interact with information. Yet, due to their complexity, the developers of CPS face a major problem: the lack of simulation tools and models for their design and analysis.
  • Creators face an evolving challenge protecting IP
    The GNU General Public License, under which the operating system Linux and much open-source software is shared, is another example of copyleft. Open-source software, where programs are worked on together by loosely connected developer communities rather than traditional software houses, show one way IP can be shared without stifling innovation. Linux, the mobile operating system Android and the database system MySQL have all achieved widespread adoption, and are continually innovating despite, or perhaps because of, being open source.
  • Emerging Tech Speaker Series Talk with Rian Wanstreet
    This is an opportunity for the open source community, as alternative technologies and platforms are being developed which provide farmers the ability to farm outside of walled gardens. From open source seed initiatives, to open farm technologies, to data platform cooperatives, there is a small, but growing, collaborative movement that recognizes that farmers are at a critical moment: they can help to establish tools that advance freedom, or accept machines that foster dependencies.
  • Williamson Schools to develop open source social studies curriculum
    The open source science curriculum saved the district about $3.3 million. An open source social studies curriculum may post similar savings, with estimates at about $3.5-4 million, Gaddis said.
  • Large Open-Source Data Set Released to Help Train Algorithms Spot Malware
    For the first time, a large dataset has been released by a security firm to help AI research and training of machine learning models that statically detect malware. The data set released by cybersecurity firm Endgame is called EMBER is a collection of more than a million representations of benign and malicious Windows-portable executable files. Hyrum Anderson, Endgame's technical director of data science who worked on EMBER, says: "This dataset fills a void in the information security machine learning community: a benign/malicious dataset that is large, open and general enough to cover several interesting use cases. ... [We] hope that the dataset, code and baseline model provided by EMBER will help invigorate machine learning research for malware detection, in much the same way that benchmark datasets have advanced computer vision research."

Android Leftovers