Soldiers threatened over posts on popular social media group
Australian Defence personnel claim they risk disciplinary action if they are caught following a popular veterans group on social media.
The Pineapple Express, which has more than 36,000 followers, says the ADF has already investigated up to 40 people, including officers, for liking, sharing and commenting on posts on its Instagram and Facebook pages.
One former officer told The Sunday Telegraph she was investigated and found to have tarnished the reputation of the ADF for her alleged affiliation with the page, which military personnel refer to as TPE.
The findings on her read: "I do not see sufficient evidence to suggest you are an administrator of TPE; however there is sufficient evidence to suggest that you were definitely aware of who was the administrator and you failed to report behaviour that held significant reputation risk for the ADF and opposed Army values, thereby making you a bystander at best and a complicit enabler at worst."
The Sunday Telegraph has seen many of the warning letters, including this message: "Gents - points from the CUB (Commander's Update Brief): No one is to post to Pineapple Express - current investigation is ongoing."
The Pineapple Express believes the end goal is to identify all administrators and have the page shut down.
One administrator said the ADF had "long exercised censorship over its members to avoid potential subversion of its authority and reputation".
"Social media policies are expected in any organisation (but) the ADF is its own microcosm of society, ironically not unlike China, where enforcement of information control is achieved through disciplinary means such as search warrants, property seizure, and punishment," the administrator, a serving member, said.
"The real irony is their belief that social media pages such as ours would cause the decentralisation and dissension of the military, when factually the demoralisation of its people is actually caused by their own archaic policies, poor management, and lack of prioritising.
"Instead of wasting taxpayers' money on trying to silence our page, the ADF could have instead focused their efforts, and actually worked with us, to help tackle the very real issues that exist - not least of which is veteran suicide."
In the latest attack on the page the Defence Social Media team took action this week to remove a TPE post, claiming a copyright breach.
The post showed an army PowerPoint presentation appearing to be teaching troops how to report offending posts from TPE.
A follow-up post about the copyright complaint attracted hundreds of comments, such as "while some veterans are homeless, this bloke in Canberra is monitoring FB posts".
The Pineapple Express is a veteran community page that began with satirical social media posts but has grown into a mechanism for mental health support and advocacy for veterans and currently serving ADF personnel.
A Defence spokesman said the Defence social media policy covered official and personal use of social media. "Defence personnel are explicitly made aware of their obligations under the policy and the exemplary standards required of them while in service," the spokesman said.
"Defence personnel are accountable for their behaviour and actions online, and if they are identified as having posted inappropriate material, or are identified as administrators of sites sharing inappropriate content, they will be accountable for contravening Defence policy."
The spokesman said Defence handled social media incidents through the chain of command.
"A matter might be dealt with by the chain of command through administrative action or, if it requires further investigation and appears to involve a disciplinary incident by serving Australian Defence Force members, it is referred to the Joint Military Police Unit."
Originally published as Soldiers threatened over posts on popular social media group