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My Coast Guard
Commentary | March 5, 2024

Navigating political social media use? Here’s what to avoid

By Office of the Judge Advocate General (CG-094) and Office of Congressional Affairs (CG-0921)

The 2024 election season is fast approaching. It is important that Coast Guard members exercise their rights and obligations of citizenship without violating Federal statutes, regulations, and policies that prohibit official involvement, or the appearance of official involvement, in partisan political activities (e.g., favoring a candidate, party, or cause).  

Guidance for Social Media Use 

For active duty servicemembers, social media serves as a powerful tool for communication and community-building. However, navigating its terrain requires adherence to the principles outlined by the Hatch Act. Here are activities service members should avoid when using social media, along with suggestions for compliant alternatives: 

  • Endorsing Political Candidates: Servicemembers should refrain from endorsing or promoting political candidates or parties on social media platforms. Instead, they can engage in non-partisan discussions about policy issues or encourage voter education and civic engagement. 
  • Sharing Partisan Content: Avoid sharing content that explicitly supports or denounces a particular political candidate or party. Instead, share informational resources or articles that offer balanced perspectives on relevant issues. 
  • Official Titles or Uniforms in Political Contexts: It's essential to refrain from using official titles, positions, or wearing uniforms in a manner that suggests endorsement of political views. Keep personal and professional identities separate on social media platforms. 
  • Participating in Fundraising Activities: Servicemembers must steer clear of soliciting funds for political campaigns or causes. Instead, they can support charitable organizations or community initiatives unrelated to political advocacy. 
  • Making Partisan Statements in Official Capacity: Avoid making statements or expressing opinions on behalf of the military that align with specific political ideologies. Focus on disseminating factual information and promoting unity within the ranks. 
  • Engaging in Partisan Discussions During Duty Hours: Social media activity during duty hours should prioritize official responsibilities. Save political discussions and interactions for personal time outside of duty hours. 
  • Retweeting Partisan Content from Official Accounts: Refrain from retweeting or sharing partisan content from official military or government accounts. Maintain a clear distinction between personal and professional online engagements. 
  • Creating or Participating in Political Groups: Servicemembers should refrain from creating or joining online groups or forums that advocate for specific political candidates or parties. Participate in groups focused on professional development, hobbies, or shared interests. 
  • Using Military Facilities or Equipment for Political Purposes: Servicemembers must not utilize military facilities, equipment, or resources to further political agendas or activities. Keep political engagements entirely separate from official duties and resources. 

Compliant Alternatives: 

Instead of engaging in potentially Hatch Act-violating activities, servicemembers can contribute positively to their communities and maintain professionalism on social media by: 

  • Sharing educational resources on civic engagement and voting rights. 
  • Participating in non-partisan volunteer activities and community service projects. 
  • Highlighting military achievements, community outreach efforts, and humanitarian missions. 
  • Fostering open dialogue and respectful discussions on policy issues without endorsing specific political entities. 
  • Promoting diversity, inclusion, and unity within the Armed Forces and broader society. 

Navigating the complexities of social media within the framework of the Hatch Act requires vigilance, discretion, and a commitment to upholding the principles of non-partisanship and professionalism. By adhering to guidance and exercising sound judgment, active duty servicemembers can leverage social media platforms responsibly while safeguarding the integrity of their roles within the military. 

If you have additional questions here’s who you can contact and three guides that may also be useful: 

  • Individual units who have questions regarding procedures for visits by elected officials should direct those questions to Area or District Governmental Affairs Officers (GAO). 
  • Area and District GAOs should refer questions to the Office of Congressional and Governmental Affairs (CG-0921).  
  • All questions regarding political activities of Coast Guard personnel should be directed to the appropriate servicing legal office. 
  • Hatch Act Social Media Handout 
  • Social Media Use Refresher 
  • Hatch Act – Social Media Quick Guide