Be aware of restrictions when surfin' the Net
By Jennifer Jameson, 45th SW Legal Office
/ Published July 26, 2007
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The Internet has become one of society's newest and most indispensable pathways to finding information. Its use has changed today's world for the better.
Many Airmen search "the Net" at work on Air Force computers; however, Internet use at home and at work comes with some important restrictions and caveats.
One such restriction is for child pornography, a crime punishable by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 134, and federal and state laws. It is defined as "material involving the sexual exploitation of minors." Even the mere possession of child pornography is punishable by a fine and up to 10 years in prison. A more severe punishment of a fine and up to 20 years in prison can be imposed on any person who knowingly mails, transports, reproduces, distributes or advertises child pornography.
Air Force personnel will be prosecuted for the possession of child pornography on computers both in the workplace and at home. Airmen should act with caution when searching the net and avoid accessing any Web sites that may contain content that sexually exploits minors or any material that constitutes child pornography.
Air Force Instruction 33-129 sets forth additional Internet restrictions for Air Force personnel. Specifically prohibited is the unauthorized storing, processing, displaying, sending or otherwise transmitting offensive or obscene language or material, including but not limited to pornography and other sexually explicit materials. While general pornographic material is not illegal on your home computer, it can result in adverse administrative or disciplinary action with the Air Force, including UCMJ punishment, when accessed on your government computer.
Air Force hardware and software is for official use only. Examples of unauthorized Internet usage include obtaining copyrighted materials unlawfully, downloading and installing software without permission, unauthorized instant messaging, private e-mail access and permitting unauthorized users access to government computers.
Internet gambling and downloading music are two other unauthorized actions on government computers that also have criminal penalties under state or federal law. For example, the downloading of copyrighted songs in entirety onto your home computer, without compensation to the authors, violates federal copyright laws.
One last point to keep in mind is that although Internet "blogging" is a legal and powerful communication tool, it too must be exercised with caution. Airmen may come across personal information regarding fellow service members during the course of duty and care must be taken to ensure no information is posted online that could jeopardize any Airmen including themselves, their family, or the Air Force mission. The Privacy Act outlines other restrictions on what may be lawfully posted on the Internet and on Web logs.
All of these Internet restrictions are necessary for security and safety and are taken seriously so as to ensure continuing access to those who need it. The goal of the Air Force is to provide personnel with the maximum Internet access allowable when used for official and authorized purposes. If you have any questions in the area of Internet usage restrictions please contact 45th Space Wing Judge Advocate for clarification.