The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has issued recommendations to the military on safe use of the Internet, Izvestia newspaper reported, citing an official document obtained by the newspaper. Servicemen are advised to abstain from using social networks or publishing data concerning their military unit or their service. They are also advised to turn off the geolocation tool on their mobile devices.
The recommendations were issued in a form of memos and educational posters. The caution boards and placards warn that administrators of foreign social networks have full access to their users’ personal information and that their public messages are being constantly monitored by foreign special agents.
Photos geotagged to a specific location and video materials “could subvert a combat mission,” warn Russian military officials. They reiterated that once published on the Internet, such information would be impossible to delete completely.
Russian servicemen are advised to activate all privacy settings in their social accounts to protect their privacy, to be selective when making friends on social media, especially with people they do not know personally, and to caution their family members not to distribute information about their service.
In addition, the ministry said in its address that messages enticing ethnic or religious discord could irreparably damage the military’s reputation and that their authors could even face criminal charges. The ministry also advises its soldiers to shun suspicious programs, to regularly update applications and to use complex and unique passwords.
In addition, the Ministry is drafting a law that forbids military members from publishing on the Internet information about their affiliation with the military and details of their service. Offenders will be disciplined and will face criminal charges. The amendments to the laws On Military Duty and Military Service and On Status of Military Servants are currently being reviewed by authorities.
A draft law forbidding Russian soldiers from publishing their personal information and information about their service mates was registered by the Russian Ministry of Defense in May 2017 on a website of draft regulatory acts. The draft seeks to oblige servicemen and new conscripts to provide information about websites or social networks in which they had posted any information for the period covering three years before they were drafted.
A source within the Ministry of Defense told RBC news agency that the authorities recommended against starting accounts on social networks but made no specific demands to delete existing accounts.
In an explanation published by the Defense Ministry in October, authorities explained that posts on social media by military personnel are more frequently becoming a source of information gathering to foreign special services and terrorist and extremist organizations, which can use it “for informational-psychological pressure aimed at destabilizing the internal political and social situation in different parts of the world.”
The Ministry reminded soldiers that the prohibition on publishing sensitive information was already in place for employees of the Federal Security Service and the Federal Protective Service of Russia.
In October 2016, the Russian Ministry of Defense launched a private military internet.