Russia’s Ministry of Defense has drafted a law to ban soldiers from posting something as seemingly trivial as a selfie. The law would restrict contractors from posting photos, videos, and geolocation information online as well as anything related to the activities of their military department and other service members. The ban will reportedly be implemented in January 2018, according to Russian news agency Interfax.
This pending Russian ban reflects how a simple post on social media has the power to leak military secrets, transform policy, and perhaps even start a war. Even tweeting a meme without careful precautions—like removing your geolocation data—can have serious ramifications. That’s likely why the US military considered a similar ban across nearly every social networking site in 2009.
Russia’s proposed law would attempt to ensure that military contractors don’t accidentally leak confidential information because they felt the need to share a snapshot of their life online. In fact, that’s already happened. A number of times.
As the BBC reported, Russian soldier Alexander Sotkin posted images on Instagram in 2014 that disclosed his potential whereabouts, and in the same year, BBC journalist Myroslava Petsa found an image a Russian soldier posted online that also outed his location. In 2015, Russian soldier Bato Dambaev shared photos of his trip on the Russian version of Facebook, VKontakte, which tipped off VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky of the Ukrainian checkpoint spot. What’s more, a team including Ukrainian blogger Anton Pavlushko has found dozens of military service members by simply digging through their photos and comments on Russian social networking services.
While none of these photos appear to have been posted with the intention of disclosing sensitive information to the public, they show the vast potential consequences of something as (seemingly) innocuous as a selfie... or even a tweet.