Edward Snowden joins Twitter: A public platform for a privacy advocate

The move to the popular social media service makes Snowden, the man who revealed government surveillance programs, more publicly accessible.

Got a question for Edward Snowden? Try tweeting him.

The government-contractor-turned-fugitive popped up Tuesday on Twitter with a brief post reading, “Can you hear me now?” The phrase conjures up Snowden’s role in revealing US and UK surveillance programs. It also slyly references a famous US television commercial for wireless service provider Verizon.

The world famous leaker quickly attracted a following on Twitter, and was welcomed in a tweet by co-founder Jack Dorsey. In about two hours he had almost 300,000 followers.

Snowden’s Twitter account, which the service verified, gives him a social media platform to interact directly with the public while he remains in self-imposed exile in Russia. Snowden, 32, fled the US in 2013 after handing over a store of top secret government documents about widespread government surveillance programs, including those run by the US National Security Agency and by the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters.

 

One of Snowden’s lawyers, Ben Wizner, confirmed he had opened the account. Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment on how the company verified the account.

Snowden has kept a relatively low profile since fleeing the US. He has occasionally made video appearances at conferences and other events promoting privacy and limits on governmental spying, and was the subject of the Academy Award-winning film “Citizenfour.”

In a recorded interview posted on the Internet on Friday, scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson encouraged Snowden to join Twitter.

He agreed and Tyson quickly joined a Twitter back-and-forth on Tuesday, telling Snowden, “[M]any call you Hero, others Traitor. Whatever else you are, you’re a Geek to me.” A representative from the Hayden Planetarium, where astrophysicist Tyson is director, confirmed the tweets were from Tyson himself.

Snowden, whose Twitter handle — @snowden — couldn’t be easier to remember, also demonstrated his arch wit on the account. The one account he follows belongs to the NSA.

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