For most Twitter users, it can take months or even years to build up a substantial following. But this week, Chelsea Manning joined Twitter and passed 1,000 followers shortly thereafter, The Guardian reported. As of Thursday evening, she had yet to post a single tweet. Manning is the U.S. Army soldier serving 35 years in federal prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (which is listed as her location in her Twitter bio), for leaking thousands of classified documents to Julian Assange and Wikileaks in 2013. Her Twitter handle, @xychelsea would seem to be a reference to the fact that she came out as a transgender woman within days of being sentenced.
Manning has fought several significant court battles during her incarceration, winning lawsuits against the Army to receive hormone therapy in prison, and last month, winning a lawsuit that requires the military to refer to her by female pronouns. She does not have Internet access while incarcerated, so she will dictate her tweets via telephone to supporters, who will post for her. She has continued her activism despite her imprisonment, including writing a regular column for The Guardian.
The image she's using as her Twitter avatar is from chelseamanning.org, and is from a drawing of how she would like to appear, with long hair. CNN reports that the Army still will not allow Manning to grow her hair like other female prisoners. Her team told The Guardian that Manning will begin tweeting on Friday, and it's anyone's guess what her first tweet will be. Will she become a trending topic? It seems likely. Since she'll be tweeting her first Tweet on a Friday, she might get a few #followfriday hashtags.
Even without considering the actions that led to her incarceration, Manning is not shy about expressing her opinion. Her past writings have focused on President Obama's foreign policies, and how to handle international matters such as ISIS. And her website is keeping up the fight to win her a pardon from President Obama, claiming she is a whistleblower who should not have been prosecuted for espionage.
But hopefully someone is monitoring Manning's followers. A quick scan Thursday night showed she was well over 1,600 people, with plenty of news organizations and international followers on the list. Will @BarackObama follow her? How about the @CIA? It seems like there will be plenty of people interested in what Chelsea Manning has to say.
Images: Chelsea Manning/Twitter; Chelsea Manning