U.S. Army soldiers conduct marksmanship training during cultural support training.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika

One year after Marines United, another photo sharing scandal emerges

March 09, 2018 - 6:02 pm

A Dropbox folder containing over 250 explicit and nude photographs of female U.S. service members is being shared online, Vice News is reporting.

The folder’s link was discovered about two weeks ago in a closed, male only Facebook group called “Blame Marines United (Non-Butthurt Edition),” according to their story. This group had almost 400 members.

It was shut down earlier this week after Erin Kirk Cuomo, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and co-founder of the advocacy group #NotinmyMarineCorps, reported it to Facebook.

One year ago this month, the Facebook group 'Marines United' scandal broke, causing a national outcry and forcing military leaders to testify before Congress.

So far, seven U.S. Marines have been court-martialed in relation to that scandal, according to Marine Corps Times. The Marines United group originally had more than 30,000 members.

[Read also: Timeline Highlights Decades Of Military Sexual Scandals]

“Another example of the Pentagon not taking the impact of this type of abhorrent behavior seriously,” said Retired Col. Scott Jensen, the CEO of Protect Our Defenders, in a statement to ConnectingVets about the VICE News story. Protect Our Defenders is a national advocacy organization devoted to ending sexual assault and harassment in the military. 

“They are tone deaf to the impact this is having on trust in the ranks and how the lack of sufficient response is sustaining cultural biases that they swear they have zero tolerance for,” he said.

Jensen was also the former head of the Marines Sexual Assault and Prevention Unit at Marine Corps headquarters.

“So far, when it comes to online behavior they have chosen to apply Band-Aids to compound fractures, exclaiming it is too hard and there are too many restrictions to do anything else,” Jensen said. “I simply don’t buy that they have done all that they can. It just isn’t that important to them.” 

Jensen also suggested that social media and cloud providers should take more responsibility for the content on their platforms and to work with the Pentagon to fix the problem.

The Service Women’s Action Network, an advocacy organization for women service members, said in a statement to ConnectingVets that “The military's failure to stem the proliferation of these sites is rooted in its failure to transform a culture permissive of harassment and assault that is pervasive in the military. Without addressing that root cause, the military will continue playing whack-a-mole with these social media sites that target, harass, demean and even violently threaten service women.”

They also pointed out that the sharing of intimate or sexually explicit photos was recently made illegal in the military under Article 117a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice by the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

“If the military is serious about eliminating sexual harassment and assault, any active duty service members involved in this most recent scandal must be prosecuted,” SWAN said. “Immediate action will send the message to the ranks that the military brass is serious when it says "Zero Tolerance."

Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Carla Gleason is quoted in the VICE News story as saying that the Department of Defense “continues to monitor and assess the social media landscape.”

“However, as social media platforms continue to expand, the challenge remains in becoming aware of and identifying victims of cyberbullying and cyber harassment, as well as identifying those individuals committing the offenses,” she said.