Guidelines issued by the Marine Corps on Monday prohibit members from sharing political posts on social media “during the upcoming election season” — unless it is accompanied by a disclaimer.
Soldiers and civilian employees must note that their expressed views are not reflective of the views of the Marine Corps or the US government, according to the “Guidance on Political Campaigns and Activity.”
“Active duty members and federal employees may use social media to express personal views on public issues or political candidates, much the same as they would be permitted to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper,” the guidance said.
Active-duty Marines can “like,” “friend” and “follow” political social media pages but cannot engage or directly link to political parties, political candidates or campaigns.
“This includes suggesting that others ‘like,’ ‘friend,’ or ‘follow’ the political entity,” the guidance said.
Marine Corps members not on Active Duty are granted more freedom of speech, as long as the activity does not present “the appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement by the [Department of Defense] or the Marine Corps.”
“Members of the Armed Forces are subject to generally more restrictive rules governing political activity than federal civilian employees,” the guidance said.
All Marines are prohibited from engaging in political activity online while in federal buildings — even on personal devices — and can never use government property or devices for political activity.
The guidance reminds Marine Corps employees that they are also prevented from “contemptuous speech” directed at President Trump, the vice president and other officials, according to Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Military personnel have already been subject to the Hatch Act, which was most recently updated in 2012, and restricts political campaign activities by federal employees.
Reserve members can appear in uniform while running for political office but must include a disclaimer that the Department of Defense, or the Marine Corps, do not endorse the candidate.
However, “Marine units may not provide limited logistical support to campaign events,” including serving as a color guard, the message reads.
Marine Corps employees who violate these rules can face punishment.