A public affairs division of the U.S. Department of Defense has come under fire for a tweet that appeared to threaten to kill civilians who had been drawn to a secretive military base in Nevada rumored to house government secrets about extraterrestrial life and spaceships.

Prompted by a Facebook post inviting people to “Storm Area 51,” UFO enthusiasts poured into rural Nevada on Friday near the base, known colloquially as Area 51, but fears of a mass raid on the remote site or a public safety crisis proved unfounded, with just three people arrested.

Instead, perhaps the most excitement came in the form of a tweet by the official account of the Defense Media Activity (DMA)’s Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) late Friday that showed a B-2 stealth bomber on a runway surrounded by servicemembers.

“The last thing #Millennials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today …,” the tweet read.

Millennials refers to members of the generation following Generation X, or two generations after the 1946 to 1964 baby-boom generation, and is also known as Generation Y.

The tweet, which may have been tongue-in-cheek, was condemned on Twitter.

“The military should not be threatening to kill citizens, not even misguided ones,” wrote Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

The DVIDS and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the tweet.

The tweet was not the first controversial usage of Twitter by the U.S. military.

On New Year’s Day, the U.S. Strategic Command, responsible for managing the nation’s nuclear arsenal, apologized for tweeting from its official account that it was prepared to drop something “much bigger” than the iconic ball that marks the new year in New York City.

Hours before the ball drop, the command tweeted, “#TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball…if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.”

The tweet included video showing a bomber dropping two conventional Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs at a test range in the United States.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.