MI5 is opening an official Instagram account to bust popular myths and reveal never-before-seen archive material.
Users will be able to follow the Secret Service via @mi5official in an effort by the organisation to be more transparent about its work.
MI5’s launch of an official Instagram account will allow it to “keep the country safe” by expanding the Secret Service’s reach, its director general Ken McCallum said.
But what exactly is MI5, what does it do, and how does it differ from MI6?
Here is everything you need to know.
What is MI5?
The Security Service – also known as MI5 – is the the UK's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, directed to protect British parliamentary democracy and economic interests, and counter terrorism and espionage.
MI5 comes under the authority of the Home Secretary within the Cabinet, and is directed by the Joint Intelligence Committee, liaising with GCHQ and a number of other bodies within the British government.
Operations of the service are required to be proportionate, and compliant with British legislation, though in certain circumstances, employees – who are bound by the Official Secrets Act – can be authorised to carry out activity which would otherwise be criminal within the UK.
Information held by the service is exempt from disclosure under section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
The Security Service is derived from the Secret Service Bureau, founded 112 years ago in 1909, which concentrated originally on the activities of the Imperial German government.
How is it different from MI6?
MI5 differs from MI6 in that the former is directed to collect counter intelligence on domestic threats, protecting parliamentary democracy and economic interests in the UK, while the latter is a foreign intelligence service, tasked mainly with the covert overseas collection and analysis of intelligence.
Both MI5 and MI6 have been ingrained in popular culture through their fictional portrayal within the James Bond films, based on books written by Ian Fleming, a former Naval Intelligence Division officer.
What will it post on Instagram?
“Much of what we do needs to remain invisible, but what we are doesn’t have to be,” he said. “In fact, opening up is key to our future success.”
The platform will be used for online Q&As with serving intelligence officers, as well as promoting career opportunities.
Glasgow-raised McCallum expressed hope the service being on Instagram would allow it to recruit Britain’s best and brightest, regardless of background.
“We must get past whatever Martini-drinking stereotypes may be lingering by conveying a bit more of what today’s MI5 is actually like," he said, “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.”
Historical exhibits from MI5’s museum, located in the basement of the agency’s London headquarters, will also be shared for the first time.
Why is the Security Service coming to Instagram?
The move to social media comes after new director general McCallum said in October that he wants MI5 to “open up and reach out in new ways”, particularly in communicating with younger audiences.
McCallum said the service would still need to keep many of its secrets so it can operate undetected in dangerous environments.
“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,” he wrote in The Daily Telegraph.
“We owe it to the public to be constantly striving to learn and improve; and in our fast-moving world, with technology advancing at incredible speed, it would be dangerous vanity to imagine MI5 can build all the capabilities it needs inside its own bubble.”
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