Despite the informal bounds of Twitter, virtually hundreds of government agencies have taken to the social media site. But the CIA—infamous for its top secret and sober nature—in particular has run an account often contrary to the attitude and professionalism many believe the CIA ought to have.
For most, the CIA’s tweets are clever—nothing to frown upon. The Central Intelligence Agency’s first ever tweet in 2014, “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet,” was retweeted over 320,000 times. Making light of their oft-thought omniscience, in July of 2014, the agency tweeted “No, we don’t know where Tupac is.” This joke directly addressed a conspiracy theory, a constant popular speculation regarding the CIA.
But the uncharacteristic savviness of the tweets caught the attention of MIT PhD student Amy Johnson. Per the, in December of 2014 she requested public records about “the agency’s social media policies and how it manages its official Twitter account.” The Agency also has few outlets that reach the public, and its sometimes playful use of Twitter seems to some an odd way of conducting official communication with the public.
Moving at the speed of government
This was in 2014. The CIA has not yet fulfilled her request. In accordance with the, however, Johnson should have access to the information she seeks.
But that material will have to come via the Massachusetts District Court. Johnson has paired with the Technology and Cyberlaw Clinic, who submitted aon May 4th to get the CIA to hand over its social media strategy.
Per the complaint, copies of communication between the CIA and Twitter, methods of instructing CIA employees using its official Twitter, and a list of user applications connected to the CIA account were requested. The CIA was in sporadic contact with Johnson over the two years she repeatedly filed requests, but ultimately never determined whether to honor her request or not.
Johnson wrote part of her dissertation on the social media practices of government agencies. The CIA’s part in ignoring her request further highlights the inconsistencies she has seen in her research.
Following the precedent it has apparently made for itself, the CIA has not returned a request for comment on the lawsuit.