Start with YouTube, but subtract the music videos, the unbridled exhibitionism, the weird, the lewd, the talented and the talentless. Screen the rest for national-security breaches and vulgarity and what are you left with? TroopTube: the Pentagon's new video site launched mainly for service members and their families. In the first 24 hours after it went live last week, 500 videos were uploaded, including "Wives Shout-Out to the Third Brigade A-Troop 133 Cavalry" (8,918 hits as of Nov. 14) and an action clip of a military mom and her baby titled "Scout Poops" (21 hits). Don't expect to find any LonelyGirl15s. TroopTube's closest thing to a video gone viral is Gen. David Petraeus's salute to the soldiers ("You really are the new greatest generation"), which is up to 20,000 hits.
Why is the Pentagon suddenly in the video-sharing business? Last year the military began blocking access on its computers to YouTube, MySpace and about 10 other popular sites, citing bandwidth congestion. Now Pentagon officials concede the ban was aimed chiefly at preventing soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from posting information that could help insurgents target Americans (though TroopTube does eat up less bandwidth than YouTube, according to the site's developer, Delve Networks). "If you have a video that shows the interior layout of your base [or] where the command post and the sleeping quarters are located, that could endanger the troops," says Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Les Melnyk.
Pentagon censors scrub TroopTube videos of sensitive footage, profanity and other content that would be "inappropriate for families," Melnyk says. The result so far is a collection of sterile well-wish videos and quotidian clips of home life. In an age when troops can e-mail battle footage from their cell-phone cameras, the most viral material has a way of surfacing elsewhere on the Web—where the Pentagon's filters can't stop it.