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After vets attacked the Capitol, Pentagon issues new rules on online extremism

The Department of Defense is instituting new policies to prevent service members from spreading posts that support white nationalists and other extremist groups.


The Pentagon issued new guidelines for service members Monday that are designed to weed out extremists within the military.

The guidelines focus heavily on social media activity and are a direct response to dozens of current and former service members' participation in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the new measures are necessary even though the vast majority of service members "respect the oath" they took to defend the Constitution.

"But even the actions of a few can have an outsized impact on unit cohesion, morale and readiness — and the physical harm some of these activities can engender can undermine the safety of our people," Lloyd wrote in a memo to the department.

As of late January, nearly 1 in 5 people charged in connection to the Capitol riot served in the military, according to NPR.

That’s a sobering thought: Some of the volunteers ostensibly serving or who have served to protect America were participants in a fascist insurrection, one of the gravest attacks this democracy has ever faced.

The Pentagon's new guidance warns service members that “liking” or sharing extremist posts online could result in disciplinary action, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a news conference Monday.

“It’s going to be very case-specific, and it will be up to an individual’s chain of command ... to have that discussion,” Kirby said, adding that there will be a process to determine whether questionable social media activity was a “very deliberate act of active participation” in extremism or simply a “mistake.”

With this critical new guidance, the Department of Defense showed it recognizes that radical ideologies like white nationalism are a national security issue.

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