MI5 is joining Instagram to improve transparency and counteract “martini-drinking stereotypes” about British spooks.
The account — @mi5official — will host Q&As with serving intelligence officers, promote job opportunities and show never-seen-before archive material.
It will also show historical exhibits from MI5’s museum, located in the basement of its headquarters on Millbank in Westminster, for the first time.
The social media launch forms part of the agency’s efforts to become more open and modernise its practices.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, MI5 director-general Ken McCallum said: “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 socio-economic background, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, disability, or which part of the country they happen to have been born in.”
He insisted the organisation’s work would “not become an open book”, but said it will “become a more open and connected organisation, constantly learning and finding new ways to tap into the diversity and creativity of UK life”.
McCallum said spies faced a “dilemma” in the modern age in balancing the need for secrecy with the benefits of collaborating with the public.
“On the one hand, our ability to serve the public and keep the country safe depends critically on operating covertly. Secrets need to be kept secret – not for their own sake, but because for everyone’s sake, we need to preserve our vital edge against those who mean the UK harm,” he wrote.
“But the other half of the dilemma is that MI5’s ability to keep the country safe and resilient also depends on our reaching out to others who can help us, and whom we in turn can help.”
MI5 has been slow on the uptake with social media in comparison to other intelligence agencies such as GCHQ, while recently-appointed MI6 boss Richard Moore became the first member of the British secret service to join Twitter.
McCallum urged Brits to follow MI5’s new Instagram account, adding: “You can insert your own joke about whether we will be following you.”