Do Emiratis in the UAE Armed Forces Break the Military's Social Media Guidelines, and If So, How?

  • Khalid Mohamed Ali Alshehhi

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    In 2015, a social media selfie by an ISIS operative at his headquarters allowed the US within 24 hours to identify the location of his headquarters and destroy it by air dropped munitions. In 2016, two Emirati soldiers were arrested for posting a video where they were dancing suggestively in UAE military uniform—an action seen as demeaning the UAE Armed Forces. Together the social media posts vividly demonstrate the risk of inappropriate social media posts – the first to operational security and the second to the reputation of the military. The thesis aims to examine inappropriate social media posts made by Emirati members of the UAE Armed Forces. Specifically, it seeks to determine if Emiratis in the UAE Armed Forces break the military's social media guidelines, and if so, how? It does this by examining large numbers of social media posts by Emirati military members, and identifying if they breach a derived social media guideline. This derived guideline was developed to represent international best practice on military social media usage. The derived guideline was based on guidance produced by a several foreign militaries, and amalgamating it into one comprehensive guideline. This was necessary because the guidance provided by the UAE Armed Forces is classified and cannot be used for analysis. The derived social media guideline incorporates two elements which are uncommon or absent from most military social media guidance. They are that military members cannot post images of themselves in uniform on social media, presumably because they are deemed to be potentially compromising operation security or damaging to the military's reputation. Secondly, there is a much lower threshold of acceptability in the UAE than in western militaries for social media posts that are viewed as compromising a member's military standing and damaging the military's reputation. Based on reviewing thousands of social media posts, and applying the derived social media guideline, the thesis identifies that there are four common types of breaches, which represent over 90% of all breaches. 4 These are breaches, in order of descending priority, of: Privacy of other people Personal security of the military member Unacceptable behaviour Operational security The study has also found that the breaches are increasing, which appears to be due to the increasingly popularity of Instagram. The thesis concludes with recommendations for the UAE Armed Forces. These are that it needs to: 1.Develop a social media guideline that centralises all UAE Armed Forcesguidance on social media, and ensure that it aligns with guidelines produced bythe key UAE national security and telecommunication agencies. 2.Replace the banning on social media posts containing uniforms with recognitionthat this may be appropriate in some circumstances providing it does not createrisks to operational security or the reputation of the UAE Armed Forces. 3.Ensure that the social media guideline is comprehensive, principle-based so thatit can apply to new technologies, and contains a list of practical do's and don'ts. 4.Mandate that the social media guideline apply to all who work for the UAEArmed Forces, including defence civilians and expatriates engaged on directcontract, and through labour hire companies. 5.Make the social media guideline publically available so that both non-militarymembers in the UAE Armed Forces as well as the family and friends of themilitary do not make posts that jeopardise operational security or the reputationof the military 6.Develop an education campaign that is targeted at certain periods in a militarymember's career when they are more likely to make inappropriate social mediaposts.
    Date of AwardJun 2017
    Original languageAmerican English
    SupervisorAthol Yates (Supervisor)


    • Social Media
    • UAE Armed Forces
    • Military Security.

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