This week, an online battle is being fought 140 characters at a time. Three separate incidents sparked off the current agitation on Twitter.
First, a directive from the Trump administration to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instructed it to cease all online communications “until further direction,” including press releases, social media, blog posts and other new content on websites. The EPA has not tweeted since Jan. 19.
Secondly, the National Park Service tweeted an unfavorable comparison between former President Barack Obama’s larger inauguration crowds in 2009 compared to President Trump’s 2017 inauguration crowds on Jan. 20. That tweet was soon deleted, and the National Park Service issued an apology on Jan. 21.
Finally – either in response to that tweet, or in defiance to the Trump administration’s frosty stance on climate change – on Jan. 24, the Badlands National Park Service Twitter account posted three climate change posts, which were also subsequently deleted at the request of the Trump administration.
These censorships caused multiple “alt” Twitter accounts to pop up for several government agencies, including @AltForestServ, @AltNatParkSer, @Alt-NASA, @RogueNASA, @altUSEPA, @Alt_CDC, @AltHHS, @alt_fda, @Alt_HIH, @altusda, @actualEPAfacts and others. Most have already piled up tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of followers, despite just being a few days old. @AltNatParkSer has more than 1 million followers, but is an outlier, having been around since May 2015.
The accounts are presumed to be run by anonymous employees within their respective agencies. The common thread – biting back against an administration they worry is showing anti-science, anti-transparency tendencies.
Here’s a sampling of what these accounts have been communicating:
President Trump, himself a prolific Twitter user, has not mentioned these accounts yet, spending this week instead tweeting about a broad range of subjects, including his inaugural ratings, meeting with automotive industry leaders, Chicago crime, “fake news” CNN, national security, the Supreme Court and more.