Cover: The U.S. Air Force Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Values on Social Media

The U.S. Air Force Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Values on Social Media

A Proof-of-Concept Examination of How Air Force–Affiliated Accounts Represent the Service Online

Published Feb 22, 2023

by William Marcellino, Christian Curriden

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Research Questions

  1. Do USAF-affiliated social media users act online in ways that reflect USAF service values?
  2. Do USAF-affiliated social media users use objectionable language disrespectful to others on social media?

This report presents a proof-of-concept to assess the online behavior of U.S. Air Force (USAF)-affiliated users over social media, specifically in regard to USAF diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies. The authors found that USAF-affiliated users rarely used language that showed disrespect for others based on their identity or social group and generally reflected service values of respect and professionalism. Additionally, they suggest that their proof-of-concept could be easily adopted by the Air Force Public Affairs Agency. The approach is an aggregate one that does not highlight individuals and respects the privacy and free speech rights of members, veterans, and other affiliated social media users. Building such a social media analysis capability could provide the Department of the Air Force situational awareness of how the force is being represented online.

Key Findings

  • Across multiple platforms, USAF-affiliated social media users generally avoided the use of offensive language, slurs, and hateful speech.
  • On many of the rare occasions when users posted offensive terms, they were generally referring to third parties having those terms deployed against them, not using those terms on others.
  • There was some pushback against DEI policies on the social media platforms examined, but it was generally civil and constructive.
  • The USAF community on Twitter rarely discussed USAF-related issues, policies, or leadership.
  • The USAF community on Twitter is politically polarized.
  • Analyzing social media behavior is an inexpensive way to understand USAF community discourse and behavior.

Recommendations

  • Evaluate a range of possible approaches to monitoring USAF and USAF-affiliate public online behavior.
  • Research to better understand private USAF-affiliated online behavior.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the Department of the Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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