The Navy has implemented a zero-tolerance policy for sharing nude photos of coworkers online without consent — a no-nonsense stance reminiscent of its strict policy on drug use.
The Navy issued new guidance in a fleet-wide message Tuesday announcing sailors caught violating new regulations prohibiting cyberstalking and online harassment will face a mandatory administrative discharge.
"There is no room in our Navy for this toxic behavior," said Vice Adm. Robert Burke, chief of naval personnel, in a statement. "This new policy shows that we are committed to eradicating this behavior from our force."
The move follows last week's regulations change by the Marine Corps, which will administer mandatory separation for Marines caught in the behavior after their first offense. The Navy has similarly updated its personnel manual sections dealing with "Mandatory Separation Processing" and "Separation by Reason of Misconduct — Commission of a Serious Offense," to reflect the new policy.
An interim revision to Navy regulationsissued in April prohibits Navy and Marine Corps personnel from posting intimate photos "if the person making the distribution or broadcast does so without legal justification or excuse," the regulation reads.
The policy applies to images posted online "with the intent to realize personal gain; with the intent to humiliate, harm, harass, intimidate, threaten, or coerce the depicted person; or with reckless disregard as to whether the depicted person would be humiliated, harmed, intimidated, threatened, or coerced," according to the new regs.
In effect, the updated rules make the act of posting intimate or nude photos a violation of a lawful order, punishable as a crime under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Signed off by Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, the new regs go into effect immediately, and are characterized as interim until the next edition of Navy regulations is printed.
The change marks a continued response to the discovery of a private Facebook group — Marines United — which frequently posted pictures of naked female Marines.
Journalists quickly discovered other similar sites. In many places, users on obscure message boards would post routine Facebook and Instagram photos while asking other users if they had nude photos. In some cases the illicit photos were posted below the request.
In many cases, investigators have been hamstrung by the anonymous nature of the forums and message boards, and often finding the perpetrator requires service members who feel they've been targeted to come forward as a witness.
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News. Before that, he reported for Navy Times.