The UK's spy agency GCHQ has joined Twitter. The verified @GCHQ account was set up this morning, with its first tweet — "Hello, world." — referencing one of the most basic and recognizable coding tasks performed by programmers. The agency says it wants to use the account to improve its public image and "help the public understand more about our work." The agency has followed a number of other UK government organizations on the social network, as well as @007 — the official James Bond Twitter account.
The account's first tweet took "weeks of meetings to agree upon"
According to a report from the Financial Times, setting up @GCHQ involved "months of wrangling" by employees, while the content of the first tweet took "weeks of meetings to agree upon." The launch of the account shows how security revelations, such as those provided by Edward Snowden, have forced the spy agency to take on a semi-public role and defend its actions. Previous publicity stunts have included lighting up its headquarters in rainbow colors to celebrate the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, and creating a giant poppy from 1,300 poncho-wearing staff members on Remembrance Day.
Hello, world. https://t.co/SROtSsE8KB— GCHQ (@GCHQ) May 16, 2016
The agency is still a step or two behind its US counterparts though. The NSA joined Twitter in December 2013 (it's the only account followed by Snowden himself), while the CIA signed up in June 2014 with a signature message: "We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet." Earlier this month, the CIA even live-tweeted the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist's death, a move that was criticized as distasteful.
@GCHQ hasn't had time to indulge in any similar theatrics, but the account's DMs have been notably left open. We encourage you to slide in, but remember, the agency is more than capable of taking a look through your own private messages.