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The IDF’s Operations Division recently published a new set of strict guidelines regarding the use by IDF officers and soldiers of social networks such as Facebook.

The guidelines were published following several incidents in which photos published by IDF soldiers on their Facebook profiles were later used by hostile elements against the IDF and Israel.

The most serious of these incidents is probably the anti-Israel website which in November published personal information on hundreds of IDF officers and soldiers who took part in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in early 2009 and called them ‘war criminals’.

The website called on internet users to distribute the personal information on the soldiers throughout the web and said that the solders “held key positions as part of a murderous mechanism.” The list included soldiers’ names, pictures, personal addresses, dates of birth, and their role in the IDF.

An investigation by the IDF concluded that the operators of the website received their information largely from websites such as Facebook and other similar social networks. The IDF therefore determined that there is a real danger to the personal security of soldiers as a result of their publishing their personal information in social networks, including the fact that they serve in the army.

As such, the Operations Divisions warned soldiers not to upload any photos which identify the unit in which they serve, for fear that this could lead to unwanted persons obtaining the soldiers’ personal address. The guidelines also prohibit soldiers from publishing photos or other information in social networks of the day-to-day operations of specific units, for fear that this information could be given to pro-Arab organizations who would then falsely accuse soldiers of war crimes.

“Most of us claim that we do not share all things with everyone,” said Lt. Col. Ami Weinberg, head of the Defense Department in the Operations Directorate. “Experience has shown that there is no control over this in social networks and that information can be obtained by people with whom we did not plan to share it.”

Weinberg stressed that “the IDF has no intention of prohibiting its soldiers and commanders to use social networks, as that is the right of every human being; we are, however, obliged to care for soldiers’ personal safety, and as such warn about such dangers and provide guidelines.”

The guidelines also stress that photos which clearly give away what role the soldier has in the army should not be published. As well, friend requests from people who do not identify themselves should not be accepted. Soldiers who have been contacted by or have received threats from any anti-Israeli elements must notify their commanding officers right away.

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