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Milblogs and Censorship

Page history last edited by Charline 12 years, 1 month ago



Milblogs and Censorship


How Censorship has influence on Milblogs ?

Kaboom as an example of censored blog.



The American government through the Department of Army and Department of Defence had to adapt to the evolution of media while he got involved in Iraq. The Iraqi conflict was the first one which could have been followed instantaneously, through the Main Stream Media, but also through the New Media, such as blogs that we will called milblogs!

This new stream of information wasn’t expected by the Department of Defence, and it had have to adapt to this new media, and its evolution to control what was said about the war, which kind of information could be spread. Following the development of blogs, they developed a censorship policy to ensure the state security. We will approach how they made this policy, how this censorship evolved and present two examples of censored blogs, with the last famous one: Kaboom!





  I – Evolution of official censorship regulations

 II – Self-censorship

III – Analysis of Kaboom (comparison with “Men in black” of Colby Buzzell)




I Evolution of Official Censorship Regulations 



  • August 5, 2004 :  Warning about pictures on web log


The US army intervened in Iraq in March 2003, but the ffirst regulation about milblog posting is dated from August 5, 2004 in the Peter A. Schoomaker's memorandum to all Army Leaders. More than one year after the beginning of the war in Iraq the Department of Defence realized that milblogs put the army in jeopardize showing "photos depitcting system vulnerabilities and tactics, techniques and procedures."The Schoomaker’s memorandum simply warn the Army, it was an observation about army security but also the beginning of more controls on the milblog entries.
"OpSec Violations needlessly place lives at risk and degrade the effectivness of [the army's] operations." 
  • April 6, 2005 : Official registration of Milblogs

This new regulation from the memorandum of John R.Vines is the first one to control the milblog entries, and to oblige the soldiers to provide their:

-         unit

-         location

-         webmaster name

-         telephone number

-         IP address of their blog or webmaster name


And this on a “quarterly basis” to ensure the blogger did not post restricted information -names (of person or geographical position), incident (killed or wounded soldiers). The Department of Defence considers these information as important indications for the enemies.

Moreover bloggers who give prohibited information will have to manage with the Army Web Risk Assessment Cell (AWRAC) to close their website, or delete the sensitive information.


Additionally  Vine's memorandum warns that
violators "may be subject to adverse administrative action or punishment.
  • Examples made in 2004 and 2005:  Demotion and Fine


Despite the previous memorandum, some bloggers posted prohibited information on their miblog so they have been censored and had to pay a fine (from 1,000$ to 1,640$).

A blogger, Jashon Hartley, posted information about flight route of the aircraft in Iraq and was demoted in rank and had to pay a fine of 1,000$, because accordind to the Department of Defence, it could help the enemies to shoot the amry’s faircraft.

But these cases were a kind of high-profile disciplinary action! They did post sensitive information, but the DoD (Department of Defence) made examples to show the disciplinary action that violators of the OpSec rules can get!

High profile disciplinary action!



The Whashington post.com presents the new regulation and the discussion brings on. Briefly, this new regulation requires that bloggers show their post to their commander in a prior reading before each posting. It implies that soldiers prepared their post before to put it on the web, so they loose all the spontaneity of the "genre".


We can See that milblogs went form the anonymity to the official registration, and to a control of each posting in a prior reading.

The milblogs' speech get more controlled!




II- Self-censorship


According to this evolution we can quickly fly-over the self-censorship that soldiers apply to themselves in order to avoid censorship.


  •   The disclaim :

First we can find on almost each milblog the same disclaim: “I'm a soldier, it’s not the official speech, I simply write about my experience for my friends and family”.

It probably shows that soldiers specify it’s a non-official speech in order to avoid some trouble with the Army (that could reproach them to be unclear about the source).

They proterct themselves from the army's blame.


  •  Loss of  anonymity:

After the second memorandum  (from John R. Vines) bloggers lost their anonymity that mean their superior and the army DoD know who writes, so can do control. Resulting, even unconsciously the Vines Memorandum modifies their way to write because they know that their post will be read and that they could get reprimand or warning. 

They are not protected by anonymity anymore so they modify their approach of blogging!



  •  Careful choice of Words and Topics

As they know their milblogs are read, they have to be a bit more careful about the subjects they speak about and the words they use. They have select what is possible to write and what could attract attention of authorities.


- Have to pay attention about not giving prohibited information to the enemies

- Have to avoid writing post which could offend the army (avoid criticism)


 The prior reading requires that bloggers prepare their post before posting them that have influence on what they write, because they don't write in the say way just for a miblog, than for a commander who have to control it.


- Implies that even the register, and vocabulary could be modify

- Can fear the commander's questions or suggestinos about what they wrote




All these controls remove the specificities of this "genre", milblogging could not really exist as such losing the spontaneity, anonymity and unfiltered information!



Bloggers must manage between contrains of regulations and self-censorship -before army does- to try to keep their blog on. But all these policies can be discouraging...nevertheless LT.G. succeeded in writing and respecting the regulations. 




III – Analysis of censored Posting in Kaboom and My war




Author: LT.G. (more about him)
Beginning of the blog: End of November 2007 
Date of censored post: May 28, 2008
His blog became really famous, probably because LT.G has a funny way to write, very vivid, a bit sarcastical in the same time, and making lot of pop-cultural references which reach a broad number of readers(the Post about the Bon-Jovi cassette-tape, for example).



  • “My War: Killing time in Iraq”


Name on his blog: a.k.a. CBFTW
Time of Poting: Beginning of the war 2003-04
Date of Censor post: August 4, 2004
He had also a funny, sometimes sarcastic, but enjoyed more liberty in his writing than LT.G., because it was before the Department of Defence passed regulations.



They both attracted more and more readers and reactions, started to be well known, provoked a  keen interest…they were also critical and sarcastic in they way to express .


What are the differences between the two censored posts?




Wednesday, May 28, 2008


The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage


Thrusday, August 04, 2004


“Men in Black”


Reason of censorship:


Did not followed the normal vetting channel before posting.



Reason of censorship:

Gave to much details about the fight in mosul, and too much details about weapons used, how they used them

Situation of the posting:

Dialog with one of his superior offering him to have a promotion to continue serving in the army.

Situation of the posting:

Description of a an armed combat in Mosul the day after it occurred, because he wanted to describe what he experienced, and say more about the battle than the few lines he found in the American news papers.



He respected the Defence Department Regulations!


LT.G. never uses real names in his blog, he always choose the nicknames with accuracy that give fun to his writing. The name of his colleagues in this last posting:  “LT Viriginia Sim”,“LT Demolition”, “SCF Big Country”.

For his soldiers: the Gravediggers

The geographical location: Anu-al-Verona


(No anonymity, it was the beginning of milblogs and it wasn’t required).


He gave names of person, weapons, places, Accurates details which could be used by the enemy and gives more details than necessary event to the families.


Places: “Mosul”, “north up route Tampa”,'bridge 5"

Weapon used and how they work: “M240 Bravo machine Gun”, “50-Cal ammunition”…

Persons: “Charlie Mike”, “Sgt Vance”, “Sgt Horrock”…



Prohibited/sensitive information?
LT.G. did not put prohibited information online, so it's not the reason of the censorship of his blog. It's officially the non-respect of the vetting channel. 
Prohibited/senstive information?
Colby Buzzell posted prohibited information, publishing names, location and details of the fight. But these information could have put the army in jeopardize?

As an author:

He wrote a post making a bit fun of his superior and the army in general, trying to keep him. He mocked his superior but nothing was harm the Army. He probably didn't deserve to be censor, may be just to erase his post.

Was he censored to be an example of non-respect of the regulation?

or simply because he began to be to much important in the milblog community?

As an author:

As an author, he get really involve in what he wrote, and wrote to be heard and deserve more attention than Few lines in a news paper.

He wrote too much details about this battle, but we have (to understand the author talent that could also have lead him to emphsize so details which gave a really vivid story (film on Youtube quoating his text).




  • They were both very good writers, with a good style of writing, lot of humour, and sometimes sarcastical.
  • They both got more and more readers, starting to be well-known among the milblog community!
  • They were both stopped in their glorious posting periode.


We can easily conclude that LT.G. didn't enjoy the same liberty as Colbie Buzzell, we cannot imagine LT.G. in 2008 descripting a fight as Colby Buzzell did in 2004.

The censorship policies became sharper as time goes by. The restrictions applied to the bloggers for the security evolved and made more difficult for the soldier to write a milblog.

Nevertheless, LT.G. get famous for being an outspoken milblogger. But then the amry probably masked under a violation of OpSec what was a disagreement with his humour or "political" view.


The answer that Colby Buzzell did to the Department of Defence was to write a book, mixing part of his blog, letters and mails. His blog show him up qualities of writer.

What about LT.G.? Should we wait for a book to learn more about the "life in the suck"?






Literature and Web sites:


Katherine C. Den Bleyker, The First Amendment versus Operational Security, where should be the milblogging balance Lie?, Pdf, extract. University of Michigan.2004.

August 29, 2008.


John R. Vines Memorandum, Pdf.

August 30, 2008.


Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, July 30, 2008



Milblogs archive, August 9, 2008


Kaboom: life in the suck. June 25, 2008


My war: Killing time in Iraq, August 29, 2008


Wired, Blog network. August 27, 2008


Daniel Bennett, August 9, 2008




The Whashingtonpost.com, August 10, 2008


Youtube. August 30,2008.



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