Here’s how the CIA could use Twitter to win the Senate spying scandal



Eric Geller


Published Aug 4, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 8:16 pm CDT

Summer just got a lot hotter for the Central Intelligence Agency. Last Thursday, the agency admitted that it spied on the computers of Senate Intelligence Committee staff members who were investigating the CIA’s classified torture program. Things may look bad for the CIA, but there’s actually an easy way for them to win the public relations battle over this news: rev up that Twitter account.

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The CIA drew a lot of attention when it joined Twitter on June 6, and some of its subsequent communiqués have earned it social media plaudits. The account has been inactive since July 31, the day the agency revealed that it illegally surveilled its own congressional overseers.

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That’s a big mistake.

Now is the perfect time for the CIA to kick its Twitter game into high gear and push back against the widespread public condemnation directed their way. Here’s how they should do it.

First, acknowledge the situation

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The first step is admitting you have a problem.

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Then, try the soft touch and a little humor

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See? It’s not all bad news. There’s two sides to every story. Make sure people see the server as half-full (of their representatives’ oversight activities) rather than half-empty.

Next, offer a reasonable explanation

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That’s not so hard to believe, is it?

Just in case, offer a backup reasonable explanation

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Buttons are hard.

Offer some context for the flurry of news

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People feel better if they feel informed.

Start an online campaign to build solidarity

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If you offer a good enough reward, anyone will fill out a few fields and click a button.

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Thank your high-profile supporters

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If you can leverage these influencers’ brands, you’ll be trending with viral support in no time.

Reach out to those who have been wronged

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Reassure any senators whose privacy you violated that you’re listening to them. Well, not like that. In the normal way.

Start shifting the blame

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Passing the buck is a time-honored tradition in Washington.

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Time for the hard-sell

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Make sure everyone knows their rights

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Nobody’s perfect, and it’s important to remind people of that fact.

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Get personal

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What’s better for a brand: engagement or detachment? That’s right, engagement. Engage directly with your enemies, I mean targets, I mean victims, I mean citizens.

If all else fails: distract, distract, distract

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Claire Danes won two Emmys for that show, you know.

Photo via Nick M/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Aug 4, 2014, 2:03 pm CDT