This (Social Network) We’ll Defend: US Army releases new social media handbook

File under “awesome” on a busy morning: receiving an email from the United States Army with a classification “UNCLASSIFIED” and caveats: NONE. Brittany Brown, social media manager for the U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, writes in to share the news that the @USArmy has released a revised social media handbook:

As a follow up to your Jan. 20 article entitled “Department of Defense: access to Internet-based capabilities is critical, despite risks,”, I am happy to announce that we just released a second edition of the U.S. Army Handbook.

The new edition of the U.S. Army Social Media Handbook includes an expanded operations security (OPSEC) section, a section about blogging and Army Strong Stories and a section discussing how to manage fake Facebook pages and social media imposters. In addition to the new sections, we’ve also included a quick reference guide for both Facebook and Twitter and a 10-page social media glossary.

Social Media Handbook 2011

View more documents from U.S. Army

The Army’s handbook has much in common with the US Navy social media handbook, although there’s no handy tagline for me to add on like “loose tweets sink fleets.” Both guides offer common sense advice that’s clearly worth repeating: don’t post geolocated updates about your unit’s movements or other information that could be of use to enemy combatants or criminals.

What Brown highlights out regarding guidance on imposter accounts, however, is significant. According to the guide, “the practice of impersonating soldiers for financial gain is significant.” The same phishing activity that targets the rest of the users on social networks is a problem for the military as well. Beyond that, there’s every reason to believe that impersonations are also a vector for gathering information that can be used to spear phish more sensitive intelligence. Caveat tweeter.

East Coast earthquake cements role of social media in government crisis communications

At approximately 1:51:04 ET today, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake 3.7 miles below Virginia rattled the east coast of the United States from South Carolina to Maine.

A 3D map of the earthquake from DC-based DevelopmentSeed, embedded below, visualizes the intensity of the tremblor.

Thankfully, today’s earthquake does not appear to have caused any deaths nor collapsed buildings or bridges, although the National Cathedral sustained what officials call “substantial earthquake damage.” Longer term earthquake damage in DC will take time to assess. Eric Wemple has a comprehensive assessment of earthquake coverage that includes links to more logistical details and assessments, if you’re interested.

A reminder to prepare

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate talked directly to the public over the Internet, using his Twitter account, emphasizing that this quake is a reminder to get prepared.

He also highlighted a critical resource for an increasingly mobile citizenry, m.fema.gov/earthquake, and hurricanes.gov, which will be an important source of information as Hurricane Irene moves up the coast.

Additionally, Govfresh founder Luke Fretwell compiled an excellent short federal government primer to earthquake preparedness that’s full of more resources, including what to do before, during and after an earthquake

Key earthquake information can be found at Ready.gov and the FEMA, USGS and Centers for Disease Control Websites. USGS also provides a seven-step Protecting Your Family From Earthquakes safety guide (embed below).

Remember, prepare, plan and stay informed.

Social media fills a fault

seismic waves by xkcd

While both DC residents and people across the United States took the opportunity to joke about the quake using Twitter, a more sobering reality emerged as residents found themselves unable to make phone calls over overloaded cellphone networks: social networks offered an important alternate channel to connect with friends, family and coworkers. In the context of overloaded networks, the Department of Homeland Security offered earthquake advice: don’t call. In fact, DHS urged urged citizens to use social media to contact one another. The White House amplified that message:

RT @DHSJournal: Quake: Tell friends/family you are OK via text, email and social media (@twitter & facebook.com). Avoid calls.less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply

 

Citizens didn’t need much urging to turn to social networks after the quake. According to

Facebook hosts conversation with Red Cross on social media in emergencies

The day after the earthquake, in what turns out to be an unusually good scheduling choice, Facebook DC is hosting a conversation with the Red Cross on the use of social media in emergencies. As a new infographic from the Red Cross, embedded below, makes clear, the importance of emergency social data has grown over the past year.

Social Media in Emergencies

According to a new national survey:

  • The Internet is now the third most popular way for people to gather emergency information, after television and local radio
  • Nearly a fourth of the online population would use social media to let family and friends know they are safe.
  • 80% of the general public surveyed believe emergency response organizations should monitor social media.
  • About one third of those polled via telephone said they would expect help to arrive within an hour.

The event will be livestreamed on Facebook DC’s page at 3 PM EDT, if you’re online and free to tune in.

Watch live streaming video from facebookdclive at livestream.com

More Americans Using Social Media and Technology in Emergencies

Week in Review: Top Gov 2.0 and Open Government Stories

US Capitol Blooms

Open government made an appearance in popular culture, albeit not in an admiring sense. At the start of the week, Jon Stewart and the Daily Show mocked the Obama administration and the president for a perceived lack of transparency.

Stewart and many other commentators have understandably wondered why the president’s meeting with open government advocates to receive a transparency award wasn’t on the official schedule or covered by the media. A first hand account of the meeting from open government advocate Danielle Brian offered useful perspective on the issues that arose that go beyond a soundbite or one liner:

Gary, OMB Watch’s executive director, focused on the places where we have seen real change, including the Open Government Directive, the Executive Orders on Classified National Security and Controlled Unclassified Information, emphasis on affirmative disclosures of government information; and the President’s support of reporters’ privilege and shield law, as well as whistleblower protections.

Lucy, executive director for Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, pointed out that this was the first president in her 30 years of working in this field who had invited open government advocates into the Oval Office. She specifically thanked him for his strong support of a reporters’ shield law, which he affirmed he continues to support. Tom, executive director for the National Security Archive, emphasized that when it comes to FOIA reform and implementation we know it isn’t just a ship of state, but an entire flotilla including rowboats. And that while there has been notable improvement according to the National Security Archive’s survey of agencies, there continues to need be a need for leadership from the top to change cultures across the vast swath of government agencies. He also noted that we all believe the information we want to see is not simply that which is useful for consumers, but also that which holds the government accountable.

I knew my topic was likely to be sensitive. I began by thanking the President for his strong support of whistleblower protections, and noted that it was not for lack of effort on the part of the White House that the legislation didn’t pass at the end of the last Congress.

I noted, however, that the current aggressive prosecution of national security whistleblowers is undermining this legacy. That we need to create safe channels for disclosure of wrongdoing in national security agencies. That we need to work harder to shrink the amount of over-classified materials that unnecessarily prompt leak prosecutions.

The President shifted in his seat and leaned forward. He said he wanted to engage on this topic because this may be where we have some differences. He said he doesn’t want to protect the people who leak to the media war plans that could impact the troops. He differentiated these leaks from those whistleblowers exposing a contractor getting paid for work they are not performing. I was careful not to interrupt the President, but waited until he was done. I pointed out that few, if any, in our community would disagree with his distinction—but that in reality the current prosecutions are not of those high-level officials who regularly leak to the press to advance their policy agendas. Instead, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is prosecuting exactly the kind of whistleblower he described, for example one from the National Security Agency.

The President then did something that I think was remarkable. He said this is an incredibly difficult area and he wants to work through how to do a better job in handling it. He also agreed that too much information is classified, and asked us to work with his office on this. He wasn’t defensive nor was he dismissive. It was perhaps the dream moment for an advocate—hearing the most senior policymaker agree with you and offer to work together to tackle the problem.

Brian’s account is the most comprehensive account of the meeting on open government online. The irony that it was not recorded and released to the American people is, however, inescapable. For anyone tracking the progress of the Open Government Directive, the last six months have been an up and down experience. It was clear back in September that in the United States, open government remains in beta.

According to doctoral research by University of Texas academic, there are 358 open government projects in federal government. Former White House deputy chief technology officer Beth Noveck wrote about the semantics and the meaning of good government and open government mean in this context. One takeaway: don’t mistake open innovation policies for transparency guarantees.

The current White House deputy CTO for innovation, Chris Vein, wrote on the White House blog this week that the one year anniversary of open government plans were “a testament to hard work” at the agencies. As Vein acknowledged, “while there is always more to be done, we are proud of the important work that agencies have done and are doing to change the culture of government to one that encourages transparency and facilitates innovation.  We are committed to maintaining and building upon this momentum to make our Nation stronger and to make the lives of Americans better.”

Naturally, some projects are always going to be judged more as more or less effective in delivering on the mission of government than others. An open government approach to creating a Health Internet may be the most disruptive of them. For those that expected to see rapid, dynamic changes in Washington fueled by technology, however, the bloom has long since come off of the proverbial rose. Open government is looking a lot more like an ultramarathon than a 400 yard dash accomplished over a few years.

That said, something different is going on during what Micah Sifry has aptly called the age of transparency. We’re in new territory here, with respect to the disruption that new connection technologies represent to citizens, society and government. It’s worth taking stock of what’s happened recently. It’s been a while since I first posted a Gov 2.0 Week in Review at Radar, and three months since the 2010 Gov 2.0 year in review.

There’s a lot happening in this space. Following is a quick digest that might provide some perspective to those who might think that open government is a better punchline than policy.

1. The government stayed open. The budget crisis on Capitol Hill overshadowed every other issue this past week. It’s harder for a government to be open if it’s closed. The secrecy of the shutdown negotiations left folks over at the Sunlight Foundation wondering about how open government principles matched up to reality.

2. Proposed deep cuts to funding for open government data platforms like Data.gov or the IT Dashboard appear to be least partially restored in the new budget. That will likely salve (some of) the concerns of advocates like Harlan Yu, who wrote about what we would lose if we lost Data.gov. John Wonderlich’s questions on the budget deal, however, include one on exactly how much funding was restored.

3. FCC.gov relaunched as an open government platform. In any other week, this story would have led the list open government news. Having sat out the Aughts, FCC.gov stepped into the modern age FCC managing director Steve Van Roekel and his team worked hard to bring Web 2.0 principles into the FCC’s online operations. Those principles include elements of open data, platform thinking, collective intelligence, and lightweight social software. What remains to be seen in the years ahead is how much incorporating Web 2.0 into operations will change how the FCC operates as a regulator. The redesign was driven through an open government process that solicited broad comment from the various constituencies that visit FCC.gov. The beta.FCC.gov isn’t just a site anymore, however: it’s a Web service that taps into open source, the cloud, and collective intelligence. In the world of Gov 2.0, that’s a substantial reframing of what government can do online.

4. What happens to e-government in a shutdown? This near miss forced hundreds of thousands of people to consider how to make wired government go dark. That discussion should not end with this latest resolution.

5. The first NASA Open Source Summit explored why open source is a valuable tool for the space agency. Open source is a pillar of NASA’s open government plan.

6. The Russian blogosphere came under attack, quashing an online parliament initiative. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see if a Russian Gov 2.0 conference next week addresses the issue of press freedoms or open government transparency.

7. Simpl launched as platform to bridge the connection between social innovators and government.

8. National Builder launched as a new online activism platform.

9. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) reintroduced the Public Online Information Act. With this transparency bill, the federal government would acknowledge the Internet, opined Mother Jones.

10. SeeClickFix launches its Facebook app.. “It looks like the entire SeeClickFix experience has been ported over to the Facebook environment,” writes Dan Kennedy. “Users can report problems and pinpoint them on a Google map, thus alerting government officials and the news media. I am far from being the world’s biggest Facebook fan, but it’s a smart move, given how much time people spend there.”

Editor’s Note This is by no means a definitive, comprehensive list. For instance, there’s plenty of open government news happening in countries around the world, from corruption mashups in India to the transparency challenges in various states. For a daily dose of transparency, make sure to read the Sunlight Foundation’s blog IBM’s Business of Government blog has also posted a weekly round up. If you have more stories that came across your desktop, inbox or television this week, please share them in the comments.

Looking back at SXSWi and a “Social Networking Bills of Rights”

Posts and thoughts on the 2011 South by Southwest Interactive Festival are still making their way out of my hard drive. On the first day of the conference, I moderated a panel on “Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights” that has received continued interest in the press.This correspondent moderated a panel on a “social networking bill of rights” which has continued to receive attention in the days since the festival, including at MSNBC, Mainstreet.com, and PC World, focusing on the responsibility data stewardship. At MemeBurn.com, Alistair Fairweather highlighted a key question to consider for the technology industry to consider in the months ahead: “Why is user data always vested within the networks themselves? Why don’t we host our own data as independent “nodes”, and then allow networks access to it?”

Good questions, and ones that a few startups I talked to at the festival are working hard to answer. Stay tuned. For now, Jon Pincus captured the online conversation about the panel using Storify, below.

Talking about crisis data, social media and GIS on Federal News Radio

American Red Cross Conference On Use Of Intern...
Image by ShashiBellamkonda via Flickr

Earlier this week, the O’Reilly Radar published a new article about how the Red Cross and the Los Angeles Fire Department integrate social tools into crisis response. This afternoon, I talked with Federal News Radio‘s anchor Chris Dorobek about crisis data for the Dorobek Insider:

Have a crisis? Don’t worry, there’s an app for that.

With the emergence of social media tools, emergency responders have been forced to integrate social media into their crisis response.

During the Gulf Coast oil spill last year, the Coast Guard launched an app where you could actually track the oil. Now the Red Cross and the Los Angeles Fire Department are using Twitter and Facebook in their emergency response.

If you’re in the Washington, D.C. listening area, our interview was on at 4:05 and will be rebroadcast at 6:05 PM EST. For online listeners (that’s you, dear reader) you can listen to the show on crisis data here.

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Congress faces challenges in identifying constituents using social media

Citizens are becoming more influential through social networks and influencing their peers. Research from the The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project suggests that government 2.0 an important trend, with respect to our understanding of what it means to be a citizen and how our actions influence those of our fellow citizens. The role of the Internet as a platform for collective action is growing but the authorities that control the levers of power offline still matters immensely.

Today, Politico reported that social media isn’t so hot on the Hill. Or, as FierceGovernmentIT.com reported, “Congress is using social media to talk, not listen.” Both media outlets were reporting on survey results conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation on perceptions of citizen advocacy by Congressional staffers.

A better headline, however, might have been “Twitter isn’t so hot on the hill with lawmakers,” given myriad challenges around identifying constituents online, automated campaigns and what Representative Culberson (R-TX) described as a “lot of trolls on Twitter.” (It’s even worse on YouTube, Congressman.) The question posed at the end of the Politico article — “Are lawmakers putting too much time — or staff resources — into social media?” is followed with Pew stats on *Twitter* use and penetration, not Facebook.

The complaints from numerous anonymous Congressional staffers about the time it takes to maintain social media are likely honest and parallel the experiences of higher-paid contemporaries in private industry, academia, media, fashion and the nonprofit worlds. Managing multiple social media presences can, indeed, be a pain in the a–. And it takes resources, in terms of time, that may be scarcer than ever. That said, social media is now part of the lexicon of Congressional staff trusted with constituent communications. If a Representative or Senator is speaking anywhere in DC, there’s an increasingly good chance that snippets of it may tweeted, unusual pictures will be tagged on Facebook and that any gaffes will be up on YouTube later.

Doing more than trying to fit the 20th century model of broadcasting to these platform requires time, expertise and commitment, along with a thick skin. Opening up these new online channels for Congressional communications created challenges, to be sure, but then so did adding the telegraph, radio, television, fax machines, cellphones and email. It’s not hard to find past news reports of Senators resisting the addition of dial phones to the Hill.

Every new communications technology has had an impact on Congress. In 2011, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube do each come with new wrinkles. YouTube and Twitter can work in concert to share video and share it instantly with the world. At the same time, on the Hill, automated campaigns using social media have followed the path of email and faxes deluges. Carefully edited videos can trim key context from statements, or audio from broadcasts. The risks and rewards for the use of Web 2.0 that pertain to federal and state agencies also pertain to Congress.

Take, for instance, Facebook, which is generally tied to the real identities of citizens. Engaging with citizens carries with it identity and privacy issues for constituents. That’s the rub, and it won’t come out easily. Look at how San Francisco integrated city services with 311 and Facebook for an example of how government can mitigate and address some of those issues. The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace might address some of the challenges as well.

In the meantime, Congresional staffers and citizens alike can hope that new, improved architectures for participatory democracy online come along soon to upgrade the status quo in Washington.

San Francisco integrates city services, 311 and Facebook

The city of San Francisco now has a Facebook application that integrates with SF 311 service requests. The Facebook application appears to work in a similar fashion as the “Tweet my 311” service that integrates 311 with Twitter, albeit with additional privacy concerns because of the data that Facebook profiles contain.

The page links to help page on Facebook and SF311 that provides more details about San Francisco’s policies. The city appears to have though through some of the privacy issues that the integration with Facebook could create.

Specifically, a citizen does not have to share her information with the city to submit a 311 request. A citizen may remain anonymous while using the application and still submit a service request to SF311.

Here’s the rundown:

  • You can disable sharing in your profile’s privacy settings.
  • You can be anonymous by logging out of your Facebook account (or not logging in).
  • On the Facebook Login page click the “Cancel” button to go directly to the application (app). You will then have the option of manually adding your contact information to the Eform prior to submitting it, if desired.
  • You can be anonymous by allowing access, then removing your contact information populated by the application.
    If you don’t have a Facebook account.

  • That said, the city also states that “in some cases, contact information is mandatory based on the nature of the request or report,” so anonymity isn’t going to be possible in all situations. Additionally, “in other cases, it is essential to assist agencies in obtaining any follow up information required in order to service or address the problem.”

    Depending upon how implementation and adoption moves forward, this integration of Facebook and San Francisco’s 311 system may provide a template for other cities to follow.

    More on the story at SFGate.com: Facebook app speeds access to city services.

    President of Free World meets President of Facebook World

    President Barack Obama talks with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg before a dinner with Technology Business Leaders in Woodside, California, Feb. 17, 2011. Also pictured, left to right, are Carol Bartz, Yahoo! President and CEO; Art Levinson, Genentech Chairman and former CEO; Steve Westly, Founder and Managing Partner, The Westly Group; and Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman and CEO of Google. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    President Barack Obama talks with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg before a dinner with Technology Business Leaders in Woodside, California, Feb. 17, 2011. Also pictured, left to right, are Carol Bartz, Yahoo! President and CEO; Art Levinson, Genentech Chairman and former CEO; Steve Westly, Founder and Managing Partner, The Westly Group; and Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman and CEO of Google. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Amazingly, the White House Flickr feed hasn’t turned into a caption contest for this picture. In the absence of press coverage, Marshall Kirkpatrick had some fun speculating about the topic of conversation at Obama’s meeting with other Silicon Valley leaders over at ReadWriteWeb.

    No word on whether the president talked with Zuckerberg about what it was like to act as POTUS on Facebook using the upgraded Pages feature. (As of this morning, President Barack Obama’s Facebook page has 18,368,666 likes. The WhiteHouse has 903,252. )

    Nicholas Gruen on Gov 2.0 in Australia and cultural change

    “I began the Gov 2.0 taskforce thinking that open government was a kind of civil rights agenda, even if it has economic costs,” said Nicholas Gruen last week in Santa Clara at the Strata Conference. Gruen headed Australia’s Gov 2.0 taskforce. “At the end of it, I realized that open government was actually a really powerful economic driver.”

    Why? Gruen pointed to the efficiencies presented inside of government by improved communication and the opportunities to ask citizens for ideas and solutions to problems. “Even if our team said we couldn’t do it technically, I just said we’ll tell everyone that we need help and approach it that way.” Asking questions was, he said, an effective means of accomplishing many tasks much faster than they would have been otherwise.

    In a video interview, embedded below, Gruen talked more about the state of Gov 2.0 in Australia and some of his thoughts of the economics involved His comments on cultural change will be of particular interest those focused on technology as a panacea to inefficiency or engagement.

    The recent historic flooding in Australia created an urgent use case for improved communications between the public and government. “When you look at the Queensland floods, the Facebook of the police department use blew people away,” said Gruen. “Their links got many comments and compliments.”

    For more about how social media combine with geospatial mapping in crisis response, read about a new online application from geospatial mapping giant ESRI that applies trend analysis to help responders to Australia’s recent floods create relevance and context from citizen-generated reports.

    Achieving better outcomes through technology isn’t just about setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account, emphasized Gruen. Public servants have to be willing to share information that matters to citizens and in turn listen to feedback from the public to create better feedback loops.

    “This is a cultural transformation,” said Gruen. “You can’t impose that. You can’t dictate it.”

    Further reading:Gov 2.0 Down Under: Australia and Open Government