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The United Kingdom’s domestic intelligence service, MI5, opened an official Instagram account on Thursday in the latest step by the country’s spy agencies to come out of the shadows.
The Security Service, as it is formally known, began posting content under the handle @mi5official.
The organisation said in a statement that it had made the move with “the aim of lifting the lid on what it’s really like to work at the Security Service”.
“MI5’s social media content will bust popular myths about its work, explain the world of intelligence, promote career opportunities, and bring to life events in MI5’s 112-year past,” it said.
MI5 also plans to host online Q&As with serving intelligence officers on the Facebook-owned social network, which boasts more than one billion users globally.
‘Must get past stereotypes’
The service’s boss, Ken McCallum, said “being more open” was key to MI5’s approach moving forward.
“MI5 making its slightly belated debut on social media is just one example of where our open approach is taking us,” McCallum wrote on Thursday in a comment piece published by the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“If it’s your thing, take a look at our Instagram page and follow us,” he added. “You can insert your own joke about whether we will be following you.”
The agency, once famous for approaching potential new recruits in discreet, shadowy encounters, has begun publicly advertising vacant positions in recent years in a bid to widen the diversity of its workforce.
“We must get past whatever martini-drinking stereotypes may be lingering by conveying a bit more of what today’s MI5 is actually like, so that people don’t rule themselves out based on perceived barriers such as socioeconomic background, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, disability, or which part of the country they happen to have been born in,” McCallum wrote on Thursday.
A 2018 parliamentary committee report strongly criticised the UK’s spy agencies for failing to reflect modern Britain and lacking women and ethnic minorities in senior positions.
The UK’s spy network also includes the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) – better known as MI6 and home of the world’s most famous fictional spook, the martini-loving 007, James Bond – as well as cybersecurity agency GCHQ.
GCHQ joined Instagram in October 2018.