The revolution will be tweeted. By scientists.
News broke this week that some government agencies dealing with science have been asked to stop communicating with the media, posting on social media (such as official agency blogs or Facebook and Twitter account) or providing information to Congress. The administration sent internal memos to the E.P.A. and the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services asking them to temporarily halt external communications and have the White House approve contact with the media. At the same time, the White House ordered the EPA to take down its climate change information page from its website.
This follows a kerfuffle over the weekend when the newly inaugurated president got mad at the National Park Service for tweeting comparison photos of his inauguration crowd and Obama’s 2009 inauguration crowd. The NPS was told to stop tweeting for a few hours after that.
You know who doesn’t like being told they can’t talk about science? Scientists.
The result of these gag orders has been a show of resistance on Twitter. It began when the official Twitter account for the Badlands National Park started tweeting out climate change facts. The tweets were quickly deleted but not before the Twitterverse noticed and began lauding the unknown tweeter as a hero.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the tweets were the result of a former park service employee using the account without authorization, but Sean Spicer also said Trump had the biggest inauguration crowd in history and that’s demonstrably untrue. So you decide for yourself if you think Mr. Spicer is a credible source for information.
Since the appearance of the rogue park tweets, a slew of “alt” twitter accounts from people purporting to be federal employees have appeared. Leading the charge is an account called AltUSNatParkService, an account allegedly created by several federal employees to clap back at the administration. The account has been tweeting out science facts and now has over a million followers. This morning, the original creators announced that they were handing over control of the account to environmental activists who are not employed by the government. This was a measure to protect their jobs and their colleagues at the agency.
There is a growing list of accounts alleging to be people tweeting their resistance from inside federal agencies. While anti-Trump forces are reacting with glee, Forbes urges caution when dealing with these accounts; there is a potential for bad actors to create rogue accounts like this to spread malware. So be careful what you follow, click, and download.
Trump is the first twitter president, having ratcheted up his messaging during the campaign, 140 characters at a time. Some saw his leverage of social media as genius marketing unlike anything ever seen in politics before. But now the Tweeter in Chief is learning that egalitarian platforms like Twitter don’t only deliver power to the people at the top of the power structure; everyone on every rung of the ladder can use social media to be heard.