Opinion: The National Security Agency joins…Tumblr?

Tyler Singleton

Tyler Singleton

Tyler Singleton is a senior magazine journalism major and the opinion editor for The Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

During the past two months, the National Security Agency has entered the American psyche beginning with the actions of former NSA employee Edward Snowden and continuing with media reports regarding the American organization’s alleged trespasses, or lack thereof. The NSA has faced increased pressure as information regarding the organization has spread with a velocity only attainable due to the connected, and plugged-in, society we have created. The Internet has created an insatiable horde that not only wants information immediately but also expects a freedom of information trumpeted by individuals such as Snowden and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

The Obama administration has promised more transparency regarding government surveillance and the first step in this reform begins on the home field of this information-hungry horde: the Internet; more specifically, the popular micro-blogging platform, Tumblr.

The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has launched a Tumblr page, “IC on the Record” to serve as a platform “to provide the public with direct access to factual information related to the lawful foreign surveillance activities carried out by the Intelligence Community,” according to the first post on “IC on the Record.”

Initially, I met this piece of news with a cocked-eyebrow and criticism. ODNI has always existed on the Internet with a traditional website. I understand that presence, but why did ODNI choose Tumblr as the platform for their renewed attempts at quasi-transparency? I only became more dumbfounded when I looked at research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project: only six percent of Internet users surveyed in late 2012 reported using Tumblr while 66 percent of Internet users use Facebook. In the extremely competitive battle among social networks for your time, and clicks, Tumblr comes dead last.

Tumblr may have faced the same fate as other now dead social networks if Yahoo!, the most visited website in July for the first time since 2011, had not purchased the micro-blogging website in May for $1.1 billion. Tumblr had $16 million in cash left in the bank and would have needed to raise more funds to survive.

As information continues to flow among the informed and uninformed regarding the intelligence surveillance and its role in Americans’ life, ODNI has selected an almost-dead, now revived and Yahoo! owned social network as the best platform to set the record straight. The intelligence community desperately needs Americans to embrace this Tumblr page to regain the trust lost over the last two months. The transparency generated through “IC on the Record” is a step in the right direction for the intelligence community and Obama administration. This, however, may not matter if the information never reaches Americans considering the choice of platform for this information.