The Pentagon has updated its policy regarding extremism among military personnel.
The revised policy comes as the result of a Counter Extremist Activity Working Group established in the Spring by Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin.
Officials say the new policy does not seek to focus on any one ideology, thought, or political orientation, but to define more clearly what qualifies as prohibited extremist activity.
A report issued Dec. 20 provides a lengthy definition of “extremist activities” that range from advocating or engaging in political violence to knowingly displaying paraphernalia, words, or symbols in support of extremist activity.
This can include “liking” content on the internet, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.
“The physical act of liking is, of course, advocating,” Kirby told reporters Monday. “And advocating for extremist groups—certainly groups that advocate violating the oath of the Constitution, overthrowing the government, terrorist activities. Liking is an advocation.”
According to the report, extremist activity can include posting, liking, sharing, re-tweeting, or otherwise distributing content—when such action is taken with the intent to promote or otherwise endorse extremist activities,
Kirby adds it will be the responsibility of commanding officers to determine whether specific actions qualify as deliberate acts of extremist activities or not.
The report outlines disciplinary actions for engaging in extremist behavior that range from reassignment to reporting to law enforcement and counterintelligence authorities.
A memorandum issued by Austin says: “We believe only a very few violate this oath by participating in extremist activities, but even the actions of a few can have an outsized impact on unit cohesion, morale and readiness—and the physical harm some of these activities can engender can undermine the safety of our people.”
Kirby says the new policies do not center on extremism in a group dynamic as groups can reform themselves and disband.
“If we got into coming up with a list of extremist groups it would probably be only as good as the day we published it, because these groups change,” he said.
The report does prohibit service members from actively advocating criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes.
Kirby also says the new policies don’t have anything to do with an individual service member’s political views or who they vote for.
“We want them to be a part of the democratic process,” said Kirby.
The new policy prohibits service men and women from pursuing personally writing for a publication, participating in political demonstrations, and recruiting or training others to engage in extremist activities.