CIA outwits impersonators by embracing Twitter, Facebook

The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia, August 14, 2008. REUTERS/Larry Downing
The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia, August 14, 2008. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Apparently the good folks at the Central Intelligence Agency have decided that YOLO. On Friday, the CIA announced it was launching Twitter and Facebook accounts.

And the public seems eager to associate with the nation’s best-known intelligence-gathering entity — the CIA Twitter account had nearly 150,000 followers less than three hours after launching.

The agency’s first tweet:

So, why did the CIA decide it needed a presence on Twitter and Facebook? Well, apparently the impetus was an individual or organization that was attempting to impersonate the agency on social media.

“Earlier this year we filed an impersonation complaint with Twitter,” Dean Boyd, of the agency’s office of public affairs, told Yahoo News. “Someone appeared to be using this handle to violate both CIA and Twitter rules by spreading false information.”

And now that the CIA owns the @CIA handle, Boyd says the agency plans to be active in social media.

“We’ll be able to more directly engage the public and provide information,” he said. “It’s important to share insights, historical artifacts and even unclassified information with the public.”

Boyd said the agency plans to primarily use the accounts to share speeches from CIA Director John Brennan and press releases.

But perhaps of most interest to people online is that Boyd said the agency will also share some of its wealth of declassified data from around the world, seeing the social media outlets as an “educational tool” for the public.

“We want to make sure that unclassified information about the Agency is more accessible to the American public that we serve, consistent with our national security mission,” Brennan said in a statement.

“There will be an incredible amount of artifacts made available that most people wouldn’t otherwise be able to access,” Boyd added.

When asked if the agency expects to be spammed by people, even those with the best of intentions, who want to offer their own information to the CIA, Boyd paused for several seconds before responding. “It’s a valuable tool to provide information to the public and to hear what the public is thinking,” he said.

Follow Eric Pfeiffer on Twitter (@ericpfeiffer).