If there was still any doubt that social media’s the way of the future, recent moves by the U.S. Military might be enough to squash it. The Department of Defense recently went social by lifting the three-year-long ban on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The Big Bad Ban

In May of 2007, the Pentagon blocked 12 popular social media sites from .mil computers. Two years later, the Marine Corps banned the same sites. Other services followed suit, citing bandwidth and security issues as the problem. On occasion, even personal blogs were inaccessible

All that blocking resulted in a rain cloud for troops that routinely used social media to keep in touch with their friends and family. Outside of internet cafes and personal computers, there was just no way.

Finding a Balance

The new policy, announced Friday, will require all military units to remove the social sites from their ban list. We’re not exactly sure what caused the change of heart, but the military’s new stance on social media speaks volumes about how essential these solutions are becoming to our culture. 

We're also reminded of Anil Dash, Six Apart's first employee. Dash recently left the world of Movable Type to become Director of a small social government operation called Expert Labs. 

"At its core, the world of Government 2.0 feels to me very much like what I saw in the media world 5 or 10 years ago," he noted in an e-mail. "While there are a few folks reluctant to embrace that change, I think it's inevitable, and we're going to see as radical a transformation of government thanks to this new generation of social tools as we've seen of newspapers and media thanks to blogs."

As for the military's security concerns, Army Chief of Public Affairs advisor on social media issues, Lindy Kyzer, said that if a commander does find the need to block sites, those blocks can only be temporary.

“DoD is moving away from the silly notion of having ‘blacklisted’ social media sites and saying, ‘We’re not going to lay down the hammer and tell you where you can and cannot go, we’re going to mitigate risk as it comes,’” she said.

They Still Can’t Watch Pr0n

The new policy is not without its limitations. For instance, access to sites containing “prohibited content,” such as pornography, gambling and hate-crime related activities, will still be denied.

“This directive recognizes the importance of balancing appropriate security measures while maximizing the capabilities afforded by 21st Century Internet tools,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III in a statement.

As Dylan would say, the times they are a-changin'.