Marines are to be issued with new guidance about appropriate behaviour on social media following the outrage at the discovery of a site sharing intimate photos of women marines, without their consent.
General Robert Neller, commander of the marines, told the senate armed forces committee on Tuesday that he was bringing in the new rules to prevent a repeat of the scandal.
Earlier this month it was revealed that a Facebook site, Marines United, had been created to share photos of female marines taken without their consent. Many of the women were naked, and the photos were accompanied by commentary urging their sexual abuse and rape. The site has 30,000 members, including British royal marines, and was taken down – but other incarnations have sprung up in their place.
General Neller said past scandals had led the service to focus heavily on sexual assault prevention and response efforts, but that it had never specifically addressed proper behaviour online.
The new social media policy, he said, will make it clear that the sharing of images online and other forms of abuse can be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“The marine corps I have served for over 40 years has a problem,” he told the committee.
"I think the biggest issue is within the culture. We haven't addressed the fact, within marines, that all marines are marines.
"I think we can fix that."
On Wednesday, he said, he will take the message to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina – the largest base on the east coast, and home to 47,000 marines and sailors.
On Tuesday he told the committee that he had a message for female marines.
"I know what you do for our corps, for our team and to contribute,” he said.
"To the men in our corps," he said. "I need you to ask yourself how much more do the females of our corps have to do to be accepted?"
General Neller then listed the women who have died in combat.
"What is it going to take for you to accept these marines as marines?" he asked.
When asked what would change, he replied: “Is it’s going to be different? It’s got to be different.”
But some of the senators were unimpressed.
Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat for New Hampshire, questioned General Neller about why the marines has the highest rate of sexual assault among the service branches.
“It’s hard to believe something is really going to be done when we hear this repeated again and again,” she asked.
“Why should we believe it’s going to be different this time than it has in the past?”
Kirsten Gillibrand, Democratic senator for New York, said that General Neller's promise to tackle the problem rings hollow.
“There’s no mystery that this has been going on for a very long time,” she said.
"If we can’t crack Facebook, how are we supposed to be able to confront Russian aggression and cyber hacking throughout our military?”