British soldiers serving in Afghanistan have been banned from using social networking sites for reasons of national security, according to reports.
The Sun said that an order had been issued known as 'Contact With The Media and Communicating In Public'. According to the newspaper, it was issued on 4 February and later leaked to the paper.
Part of the order reads: "Service and Ministry of Defence [MoD] civilian personnel are encouraged to use self-publishing on the internet or similar channels to communicate with the public directly, but should ensure that the rules on prior authorisation, conduct and behaviour, collective and personal security, use of official IT, data protection and communicating in public are followed."
The MoD said that the rule is designed to prevent sensitive information being placed on the internet, but it is thought that it could have an impact on social communications as well.
One solider told The Sun: "The fun police have taken over. I can't talk to my wife and kids or even play Call of Duty 5. Do they really think we're going to give away secrets?" Another added: "I am going to ignore it. A lot of the lads are going to do the same."
It appears that the MoD may already be watering down the rule. A spokesman later told The Sun: "Of course soldiers are allowed to go on Facebook and contribute to blogs. But we need to ensure sensitive information is not inadvertently placed in the public domain."