The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has created an increasingly popular Instagram account, displaying some of the most alarming items that haven been confiscated at security checkpoints. And there’s no shortage of images to post. The TSA claims an average of 40 firearms (mostly loaded) every week, and has found contraband including knives, grenades, rocket launchers, cannonballs and even snakes (Wired).
Since the feed’s creation about a year ago, the account has 160 posts and over 100,000 followers. Each week, the head and only member of the TSA’s social media team, Bob Burns – better known as Blogger Bob – reviews reports from over 450 airports across the country and posts the most compelling incidents.
Though these photos are meant to be a warning to future fliers, reminding them of the consequences of carrying prohibited items, there is no denying the account is an attempt to legitimize the oft-criticized, time consuming practices of the TSA. According to Bob, the the Instagram account has helped give the governmental organization a bit more personality and credibility, telling Wired: “You change the conversation from people complaining about TSA to people saying, ‘Wow look what TSA found, I can’t believe someone would try to come through with this.’ We like to show not only that our workforce is capable of finding these things, but we’d like to educate people.”
The account is not only limited to displaying prohibited items. The TSA’s bomb-sniffing dogs and distinguished employees have made appearances on the feed as well. TSA promotions and programs have also been advertised on the account.
The TSA’s social presence extends beyond Instagram, also managing a blog and Twitter account . On the blog, a regular “Week in Review” post reveals the weeks most notable confiscations, as well as a tally of firearms-including where they were found, and if they were loaded (The Daily Beast). The Twitter account has been used to address and resolve customer complaints according to Ross Feinstein, the TSA Press Secretary.
Though the TSA has taken advantage of the social media outlets available, Feinstein has made it known that deep down, the organization wishes their Instagram account did not exist: “We would love to put a blog post on our website every Friday that says, ‘We did not discover any firearms at checkpoints nationwide, we didn’t discover any prohibited items like knives or any suspicious items whatsoever.’ While we like utilizing social media, we’d rather not find these items” (Wired).
However, as long as the TSA keeps finding these items, it certainly makes for an interesting Instagram feed — and an important outlet for a government organization that often comes under fire from frustrated travelers.