Edward Snowden is finally coming out of the dark and joining Twitter. The whistleblower, famous for leaking documents concerning the National Security Agency’s (NSA) rampant U.S. mobile phone surveillance, will be taking his fight for privacy rights to social media.
Snowden joined Twitter on Tuesday with the handle @Snowden. He debuted on Twitter with a tweet that read “Can you hear me now?” The tweet immediately went viral, amassing a comfortable 25,000 retweets in an hour. In less than one hour since joining, the whistleblower had already attracted a 171,000 strong following.
Snowden’s profile reads “I used to work for the government. Now I work for the public." Peculiarly, he only follows one account, his former employer, the NSA.
Snowden shot to fame in 2013 when he revealed documents outlining the NSA’s secret spying program that collected mobile phone data from American citizens. The documents would later spur the federal court's decision to strike off those powers from the NSA, leading to an investigation into the possible breach of Section 215 of the Patriot’s Act by the FBI and the NSA.
Snowden fled the U.S. after the leak and is believed to be benefiting from a granted asylum in Moscow, Russia. Reports indicate that Snowden downloaded up to 1.7 million secret documents before leaving the U.S. where he is now wanted for charges that could see him face up to 30 years in prison.
Snowden spent the better part of his Twitter debut exchanging tweets with prominent astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson concerning the discovery of water on Mars. Snowden tweeted, "Now we've got water on Mars! Do you think they check passports at the border? Asking for a friend." He even joked about his new found role of safeguarding people’s freedoms keeping him busy "but I still find time for cat pictures."
In another tweet he said, "Hero, traitor - I'm just a citizen with a voice.”
Earlier this year, Snowden appeared before a Geneva audience saying he would like to be granted asylum in Switzerland. He also appeared on video link before a New York forum last week to campaign for a new treaty. The “Snowden Treaty” would see countries altogether abandon spy programs on citizens and commit themselves to granting asylum to whistleblowers.
Snowden has amassed a huge following of fans, many of whom credit him with becoming a symbol of privacy freedoms and an anti-government crusader. By joining Twitter, the whistleblower will have an opportunity to engage with his audience and even raise awareness on the “Snowden Treaty.”