The Marine Corps will not hesitate to court-martial servicemen suspected of posting nude photos of their female comrades to an invitation-only Facebook page made up of active-duty Marines and veterans, the service's top officer pledged Tuesday.
"Marines have got to understand that using social media to degrade, denigrate, be disrespectful to another Marine is not just not who we are, but it's illegal, and that if you are found doing this then you are potentially subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice," testified Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
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The service updated its social media policy on Tuesday to address online behavior like sharing nude photographs of service members. Neller said he would work with the chain of command to ensure that the policy is enforced.
Neller participated in a closed-door briefing with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee following his public testimony.
The Marine Corps was shaken earlier this month after it emerged that an all-male private Facebook group with 30,000 members called Marines United had posted thousands of intimate photographs of female Marines without their consent. The photographs often drew sexually derogatory and violent comments, including propositions of rape.
Neller on Tuesday called on female Marines whose photos were shared secretly to the page to come forward and cooperate with the military investigation headed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Fewer than 10 women have come forward due to backlash on social media for speaking out.
It is still unclear how many servicewomen are aware that their pictures were posted to the group, since Facebook and Google deleted social media accounts involved in the scandal at the request of the Marine Corps.
Neller announced Friday that the Marine Corps would create a task force to examine institutional policies that contribute to the military "subculture" that may have led to the scandal. Female service members will be included on the task force.
"The biggest issue is within the culture. We haven't addressed the fact, within Marines, that all Marines are Marines," Neller testified. "This issue of denigration of women, objectification of women, misogyny, however you want to articulate it … is tied to the way that some male Marines look at women in the Marines."
On Wednesday, the general will visit Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast, to begin implementing his policies across the service.
In opening testimony, Neller directed male active-duty Marines and veterans to remember the female Marines who have died in service and to ask themselves, "How much more do the females of our corps have to do to be accepted?"