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Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller arrives for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Mar. 14 on the Marines United Facebook page on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein.

After illicit photo scandal, military seeks new ways to punish bad online behavior

WASHINGTON — The Navy and the Marine Corps are considering new ways to punish inappropriate online activity by service members, including posts of “intimate” images on social media sites.

Senior military leaders from the four services are testifying Tuesday before a House panel to explain how they are improving online policies after a nude photo-sharing scandal involving Marine Corps members and others. Their testimony was obtained by the Associated Press.

In prepared testimony, Marine Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, deputy commandant for manpower affairs, said the Navy and Marine Corps are weighing regulations to prohibit the knowing and wrongful disclosure of an intimate image. He said they are looking at expanded ways to discharge service members guilty of online misconduct.

Tuesday afternoon’s hearing of the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee is the latest response to former and current female Marines reporting that their photographs and those of other women service members were posted online without their consent. The postings triggered investigations by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. So far, only women Marine have come forward as victims.

Last week, the Marines last week issued a longer and more detailed social media policy that lays out the professional and legal ramifications of online misconduct.

It started with a private Facebook page that had hundreds of explicit photographs of female Marines, accompanied by obscene, degrading comments. Women who have so far been identified said it had been done without their consent. Military officials have launched an investigation. William Brangham gets reaction from retired Col. Mary Reinwald of Leatherneck Magazine.

Maj. Gen. Jason Evans, director of Army personnel management, said his service updated social media regulations in 2015 to prevent unprofessional behavior. He said the Army policy prohibits online conduct that undermines “dignity and respect,” including hazing and bullying.

The photo-sharing scandal centered on nude and other intimate photos Marines and others shared on social media, including a private, men-only Facebook page called Marines United and a Google Drive linked to the page. Investigators also are looking into threatening and obscene comments posted alongside the photos.

The Facebook page has been taken down. The Google drive link is also gone, although officials say the photos likely migrated to other sites.

As of late last week, at least 20 women victims have come forward.

READ MORE: Top Marine says nude photo probe must not be completed ‘in a hurry’

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