Fifty-five U.S. Marines have been punished — including seven court-martials — for online misconduct in the wake of the 2017 Marines United scandal, in which thousands of explicit photos were shared in a closed Facebook group made up of 30,000 active-duty Marines, veterans, and civilians.
In addition to the court-martials, six received “administrative separations,” which means they were removed from the military by a commander; 15 received non-judicial punishments, which can mean a fine, a demotion, or extra duties; and 27 received adverse administrative actions — all in the last year. One lance corporal was court-martialed as recently as Jan. 31, according to the Marine Corps.
The charges include extortion by threatening to share sexually explicit photos, filming, and broadcasting videos.
The crackdown on online misconduct is part of a broader effort by the Marine Corps to move past the Marines United scandal, which exposed a culture of abuse and harassment among active service members and veterans online.
“The Marine Corps, with the support of NCIS, continues to identify, investigate, and hold accountable those who violate our policies and standards when they are brought to our attention,” said Maj. Brian Block, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps, in a statement to VICE News. “We take all allegations of misconduct seriously — disrespect, in any form, will not be tolerated.”
But the scandal went far beyond one Facebook group. Since last February, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service scanned nearly 131,000 images across more than 168 social media sites, which included numerous groups and pages on the same platforms.
The Marine Corps established a joint task force with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which identified at least 123 people who were linked to social media misconduct, including explicit and non-consensual photo sharing.
Of that group, 22 were civilians and outside the Department of Defense’s jurisdiction, and 101 were active-duty or reserve Marines. Commanders decided to pursue 82 cases, of which 19 are still pending, according to the Marine Corps.