Morale: TroopTube Takes A Hit

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April 6, 2009: Late last year, the U.S. Department of Defense created its own video sharing web site; TroopTube. This is no competition for Youtube, which has about 75 million visitors a day. TroopTube gets about 7,000, which is somewhat less than what the Department of Defense expected. TroopTube was established because of the backlash that developed when the troops lost access to the videos and social networking sites, as the brass blocked those sites. 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. Many troops take their laptops with them to the combat zone, and expect to use them.

 In addition, the military 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. Something had to be done quickly. But there are often other consequences, like security problems, that cannot be ignored either.

So TroopTube will encourage the uploading of videos showing the troops in action. But the uploaded vids will be screened to make sure OPSEC (Operational Security) is not violated, and the uploaders don't give the enemy access to information that might endanger the troops. There are details of tactics and techniques that videos might show more clearly than even enemy troops involved would notice. Such videos could be used to train enemy fighters to counter the American tactics and weapons. Thus Troop Tube doesn't have many combat videos. The military censors will also block videos that might be embarrassing to the military (these usually show up on YouTube anyway.)

It was two years ago, that the Pentagon began blocking access to YouTube, MySpace, Metacafe, IFilm, StupidVideos, and FileCabi, BlackPlanet, Hi5, Pandora, MTV, 1.fm, live365, and Photobucket. These were sites that provide video and audio clips to users. The Pentagon prohibition meant that anyone using a computer connected to Department of Defense network (NIPRNET), was no longer 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. Some military bases are now blocking TroopTube, because of the heavy network load from viewing videos.

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.

In any event, TroopTube.tv has not attracted a lot of attention from troops, or their families. Use went up initially, but then declined. Without the content that upsets the brass, TroopTube seems destined for terminal decline.

 


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