Sailors who think they've been a victim of online bullying or cyberstalking should report it to Navy investigators, the Navy's top officer said in a message to the fleet Tuesday.
As Navy leaders continue to grapple with a military-wide nude photo-sharing scandal, the service is encouraging victims to come forward and shipmates to report any harassment they're aware of.
"NCIS has encouraged anyone with direct knowledge of online misconduct related to the recent reporting or who thinks that photos of them have been taken or posted without their consent to contact them via text, web or smart phone app," wrote Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, in a fleet-wide message.
Sailors from all corners of the Navy — more than a dozen commands — were targeted by anonymous users on online message boards, a March 14 Navy Times investigation found. In the midst of the growing scandal, Richardson released a blistering statement to the fleet, saying sailors who engage in such behavior were not welcome in the Navy.
In the message, Richardson said he expects sailors to treat each other online no differently than in person.
"Bullying, hazing, harassment, stalking, discrimination, retaliation, assault and other types of toxic behavior, online or anywhere else, undermine teamwork and make us less capable — they give advantage to our enemies," Richardson wrote. "In some cases they are also criminal. How we treat each other online is as important as how we relate to one another in person. The internet, with any sense of anonymity it may provide, must not be a haven for bad behavior.
"Your online life is still your life."
In the wake of the scandal, the Navy brass told leaders throughout the fleet to talk to sailors in small groups and one-on-one to convey online etiquette expectations. Richardson reiterated that in a joint video message with the master chief petty officer of the Navy, saying new training lectures were not going to be enough to combat the behavior.
"We've got progress to make here, there is work to be done, particularly in our relationships between men and women, to be the most competitive and effective teams," Richardson said. "We're not going to make progress by another video, we're not going to make progress by another brief on NKO. We're going to make progress by having conversations in our small units."
VADM Burke: #USNavy will be relentless in reinforcing expectation of online and offline conduct. #HASC pic.twitter.com/oTXibtp0ND
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) March 21, 2017
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.