The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), an intelligence and security organization that operates alongside MI5 and MI6, has unsurprisingly said that it will not be using the account to publish craft secrets.
@GCHQ hi! Presumably to DM you we just need to say it out loud in our kitchen while our phone's nearby, right?:)— Chris T-T (@christt) May 16, 2016
In a statement this morning, GCHQ's Director of Communications, Andrew Pike, said the organization was joining social media to "use its own voice to talk directly about the important work we do in keeping Britain safe." The response online was overwhelmingly cynical and sarcastic, with many suggesting that GCHQ had been "following" social media users for quite some time already, and poking fun at the world of online surveillance.
GCHQ's first tweet, "Hello, world" is an homage to the world of computer coding, as they are the first words junior coders learn to make appear in coding languages world-wide.
The first tweet by @GCHQ just went out. They have over a thousand followers already, of course, they intimately follow around 7 billion.— Andy Barratt (@apbarratt) May 16, 2016
It is expected that GCHQ will use social media to engage with the technical community, and to host problem solving puzzles such as the cryptographic Christmas card sent out by GCHQ Director last December, which attracted hundreds of thousands of amateur cryptographers. Though they may have a hard time avoiding the trolling they’ve seen today.
GCHQ was welcomed to Twitter by its American counterpart, the CIA, which joined Twitter with a more self-aware and snarky tweet back in June 2014. Yet an attempted touch of humor didn’t provide immunity from the online backlash.
What are the @CIA like, what with their hilarious first tweet and their record of torture, murder and overthrowing elected governments— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) June 7, 2014
Agency officials will be hoping to use the social media account to improve GCHQ's image, which was damaged by the revelations of former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, highlighting the extent to which organizations such as GCHQ, the NSA and the CIA undertake digital surveillance.
Edward Snowden, currently residing in Russia, himself joined Twitter in September 2015 with a dig at former employers, the NSA, in his first tweet — "Can you hear me now?" — gaining an astonishing 25,000 retweets in under an hour.
Can you hear me now?— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 29, 2015
The NSA is also the only Twitter account that Edward Snowden follows. Only time will tell if he will also be following GCHQ.