WASHINGTON: The CIA, which has long trolled social media to try to uncover global trends and track evil-doers, officially joined Twitter and Facebook yesterday.
The spy agency cast the move as an effort to better get out its message and engage directly with the public, but its first Twitter message, sent out shortly before 2pm EDT (1800 GMT), did not indicate there would be major revelations.
It said simply: “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”
The lack of content did not dampen interest: in less than 90 minutes, the CIA account had nearly 84,000 followers, and that number was climbing fast.
The Central Intelligence Agency has long had a public website, and maintains official accounts on YouTube and Flickr, the photo-sharing site.
“By expanding to these platforms (Facebook and Twitter), CIA will be able to more directly engage with the public and provide information on CIA’s mission, history, and other developments,” CIA Director John Brennan said in a statement.
Among the items to be posted are artifacts from the CIA’s (non-public) museum, and updates to its “World Factbook,” a compendium of world leaders, maps and similar information.
Critics say the Obama administration is more secretive than its predecessors. It has cracked down on once-normal interactions between reporters and intelligence officials.
In recent directives, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has banned intelligence officials from speaking to reporters without permission, even about unclassified information, and also from citing news articles based on unauthorized disclosures.
The CIA’s Facebook page is www.facebook.com/central.intelligence.agency. Its Twitter “handle” is @CIA.
US officials, especially those at NASA, just love to tweet. Now the CIA is getting in on the action, and it’s really not a bad idea either. People seem to spend more time looking at social media than actually watching the news on TV anymore, so if the government wants to get a warning out quickly, then Twitter is perhaps the best vehicle to do it with.
The agency has also been adding to its already-existing YouTube and Flickr accounts. Also the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has its own blog—IC on the Record—hosted on Tumblr.
The CIA plans to post job listings, trivia from its World Factbook, pictures, and “reflections on intelligence history.”
Ordinary Americans became irate when Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the National Security Agency’s digital spying programmes, although the CIA never really took much heat from that. However, the agency could be looking for ways to emphasise its human element. The US intelligence community as a whole is trying to recover its reputation in the wake of the Snowden incident.
Meanwhile, the EU Commission said Friday that foreign firms operating in the EU, including those that dominate the Internet, will be subject to a new data protection law which is still being finalised,
Personal data protection has become a hugely sensitive issue after revelations of massive snooping by US and other intelligence services, including through networks belonging to major telecoms and Internet giants. “Data protection will apply to all companies operating in the European Union,” said Viviane Reding, European Justice Commissioner after talks with EU ministers.