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US forces to block YouTube, MySpace on DoD network

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The US forces will "block worldwide access," to a range of websites including YouTube, MySpace and Photobucket from the unclassified Defense Department internet (or NIPRNET) as of today.

In a widely-reported memo, General BB Bell (commander of US forces in Korea) announced the upcoming blocks. He suggested that the changes were as much to preserve bandwidth as to muzzle critical comment and news-media access. "Recreational traffic impacts our official DoD network and bandwidth availability," he wrote.

It's true, of course, that modern warfare is intensely bandwidth hungry. In particular, unmanned combat platforms like the "Reaper" aerial hunter-killer and its smaller brethren need to send huge amounts of real-time video, which has to compete for satellite backhaul with the ordinary NIPRNET traffic from grunts on the ground.

The General's assertion that resource issues lay behind the decree was lent some credence by the inclusion of internet radio site Pandora.com on the banned list, too, and it was stressed that soldiers were still free to access YouTube and the rest via their private ISPs or other non-DoD channels.

A soldier could still upload his YouTube footage after returning to the States, for instance, or even during his tour if he/she could reach any affordable commercial providers while deployed.

Nonetheless, many analysts have seen this as at best a foolish gag on some of the most positive reporters from the Southwest Asian frontlines. Military bloggers and uploaders overall tend to be quite on-message from the DoD point of view, and now this support for the cause will be largely stifled. Others, of course, interpret the blocks as a straightforward case of censorship.

There could be an element of truth in all these positions. ®

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