Morale: Troops Cut Off From YouTube and MySpace

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May 15, 2007: On May 14th, the U.S. Department of Defense began blocking access to YouTube, MySpace, Metacafe, IFilm, StupidVideos, and FileCabi, BlackPlanet, Hi5, Pandora, MTV, and 1.fm, live365, and Photobucket. These are sites that provide video and audio clips to users. This means that anyone using a computer connected to Department of Defense network (NIPRNET), won't be able to reach the banned sites. The reason for the ban was quite practical. All those video and audio clips were jamming up the network, and making it difficult to get official business done. This is a problem university networks began to encounter in the 1990s, and solved by a combination of expanding capacity, and restricting how much students could use the network for downloading large files. The Department of Defense is in a slightly different situation, because many of its users overseas depend on satellites for their Internet connection. Land based fiber-optic lines can provide a lot more capacity, but in combat zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, satellite is all that's available.

But there's another problem, which the Department of Defense is going to hear a lot about in the next week or so. The troops use YouTube and MySpace to keep in touch with the folks back home, and each other. It's a big deal as far as morale goes. Troops still have access to the banned sites via non-military connections. But these are not as accessible, and often low capacity, in combat zones.

Actually, the military even uses YouTube as part of their public relations efforts, to show clips of good things the troops are doing. It appears that the decision to block access was taken without realizing some of the side effects. That's understandable, because if the popularity of the video clips among the troops has made it difficult to take care of business. Something had to be done quickly. But there are often other consequences, that cannot be ignored either.

 


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