Unofficial Twitter feeds for US climate departments take off in response to Trump rhetoric
A number of unofficial Twitter handles representing major US Government agencies responsible for climate change and science have been set up by disgruntled employees who are concerned about the impact of the new Trump administration.
The “rogue” Twitter feeds cover bodies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NASA and at least 10 other bureaus and use their names and logos in order to protest restrictions they view as censorship and provide unfettered platforms for information the new administration has curtailed.
The accounts have been quick to criticise Trump and his administration in a series of targeted tweets.
Can't wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS.— AltUSNatParkService (@AltNatParkSer) January 25, 2017
You can take our official twitter, but you'll never take our free time!
The accounts are quickly increasing in popularity, with AltUSNatParkService already racking up nearly one million followers just two days after its creation.
The alternative account for the US space agency @RogueNASA is picking up similar speed and already has over a quarter of a million followers with thousands more joining by the hour. The number of followers visibly increased even during the writing of this article.
How sad is it that government employees have to create rogue Twitter accounts just to communicate FACTS to the American public?— Rogue NASA (@RogueNASA) January 25, 2017
The @RogueNASA account describes itself as “The unofficial ‘Resistance’ team of NASA” which offers “REAL NEWS, REAL FACTS.”
The swift proliferation of such tweets by government rank-and-file followed internal directives several agencies involved in environmental issues have received since Trump’s inauguration requiring them to curb their dissemination of information to the public.
Last week, Interior Department staff were told to stop posting on Twitter after an employee re-tweeted posts about relatively low attendance at Trump’s swearing-in, and about how material on climate change and civil rights had disappeared from the official White House website.
Employees at the EPA and the departments of Interior, Agriculture and Health and Human Services have since confirmed seeing notices from the new administration either instructing them to remove web pages or limit how they communicate to the public, including through social media.
The @altEPA handle, the alternative account for the EPA, addressed these directives describing them as a “gag order”.
Thank you for supporting the EPA. This agency (et al) operates most effectively with transparency. A gag order does not foster communication— altEPA (@altUSEPA) January 26, 2017
Although it notes that the EPA’s climate change page has not been removed from their website so far, unlike the official site for the White House which eradicated all mention of climate change as soon as Trump took office last Friday.
The EPA's climate change web page shall remain in place for now. At least until it can go away more quietly.https://t.co/TAZKPTrSOs— altEPA (@altUSEPA) January 26, 2017
The changes to the White House website and recent policy announcements over oil pipelines in conjunction with statements that Trump made during his campaign trail have raised concerns that he will abandon federally backed research showing that emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other human activities are contributing to global warming.
Last week, a group of leading climate scientists expressed concerned that Trump will attempt to restrict Nasa climate data “with frightening speed”.
Andrew Steer, the president of the Washington-based World Resources Institute, also recently predicted a wave of legal action against the US Government from environmental groups should Trump make sweeping changes to the country’s policy in that area.
The Twitter-based resistance movement appeared gained steam earlier this week when a series of climate change-related tweets were posted to the official Twitter account of Badlands National Park in South Dakota, administered under the Interior Department, but were soon deleted.
A Park Service official later said those tweets came from a former employee no longer authorized to use the official account and that the agency was being encouraged to use Twitter to post public safety and park information only, and to avoid national policy issues.
Within hours, unofficial “resistance” or “rogue” Twitter accounts began sprouting up, emblazoned with the government logos of the agencies where they worked, the list growing to at least 14 such sites by Wednesday afternoon.
Other “alternative” Twitter accounts originating from various science and health agencies include the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Weather Service. Many of their messages carried Twitter hashtags #resist or #resistance.
An unofficial Badlands National Park account called @BadHombreNPS also emerged (a reference to one of Trump’s more memorable campaign remarks about Mexican immigrants) to post material that had been scrubbed from the official site earlier.