Rules and Regulations for Currently Serving PCVs online journals and blogs
In general, current volunteers should still keep in mind their own safety and security, cultural sensitivity, and the fact they are in-country representing the United States. See Manual Section 204 regarding Volunteer conduct and Section 543 regarding Volunteer use of information technology tools.
MS 543.7 Websites: Volunteers who create their own Web sites, or post information to Web sites that have been created and maintained by others, should be reminded that, unless password protected, any information posted on the Internet can be accessed by the general public, even if that is not intended. Because search engines regularly index most sites on the Internet, it is possible that members of the public could locate a Volunteer Web site by searching for information about the Peace Corps or a certain country. This is possible even if the Volunteer does not actively promote his/her Web site. Given these realities, Volunteers are responsible for ensuring that their IT use is consistent with the following guidelines: 7.1 Notification 7.2 Disclaimer 7.3 Use of the Peace Corps Logo 7.4 Cultural Sensitivity 7.5 Safety and Security 7.6 Publication Policies
Semiannual Report to Congress April 1 - September 30, 2007 (page 33)
Title 18 Criminal and Other Investigations Conducted Peace Corps Office of Inspector General
Investigations Leading to Disposition
During the previous reporting period, the OIG opened an investigation relating to a Volunteer serving in a Middle Eastern country engaging in public political statements in violation of Agency policy. A variety of Peace Corps Manual sections and Handbook procedures require Peace Corps Volunteers to maintain an apolitical posture in their country of service and refrain from becoming involved in the political affairs of their host country. Among the sentiments expressed in the Volunteer’s internet-based journal (“blog”) were political opinions about the country in which he was serving, favorable comments about groups classified by Executive Order as terrorist organizations, and comments concerning the foreign policy of a neighboring country in the region. The Volunteer’s blog was publicly available and not password protected.
During this reporting period, OIG developed additional evidence that the Volunteer was provided with training regarding Agency prohibitions on political statements, including the requirement of clearing any political blog with the country director. The Volunteer acknowledged that his statements could pose a security risk to him in his country of service. The Volunteer further conceded that the portion of his blog in which he was critical of local governments could have become known to the host-country Government and undermine Peace Corps’ credibility in his host country. The Volunteer also acknowledged associating with members of his host country’s intelligence service. When representatives of the host government became aware of the Volunteer’s statements and associations, they expressed concern to the U.S. Embassy about the safety of the Volunteer and the U.S. Ambassador recommended that the Volunteer be removed from the country within 24 hours.
The host country agency also conducted an investigation of the Volunteer’s activity and found further evidence that he had discussed political issues with host country nationals.
The OIG also found that the country director failed in her responsibilities to monitor and oversee the Volunteer’s blog entries and did not object to certain entries that were political in nature and violative of Agency’s rules and guidelines. During this reporting period, the Volunteer resigned in lieu of administrative separation. The country director, who had been slated to work in the Peace Corps Director’s Office, retired in lieu of this assignment.