By Laura Mushrush
“Covert propaganda” and “grassroots lobbying” has landed the Environmental Protection Agency in hot water after being investigated by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for inappropriate use of social media to promote the “waters of the United States Rule” (WOTUS).
On Dec. 14, the GOA ruled the EPA broke federal law through an online campaign utilizing Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Thunderclap to flood the public comment period in support of the rule under the impression that it was to protect the nation’s drinking water. In a screenshot from The New York Times, it was shown @EPAwater tweeted a link to their followers with a link to their Thunderclap campaign, which essentially floods supporters’ social media pages with common messages about the campaign for their friends and followers on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter to see once a supporter quota is met. In the screenshot captured by Farm Journal Media, the Thunderclap page set up by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had a social reach of 1,803,761 people ending Sept. 29 at 2 p.m., with the message, “Clean water is important to me. I support EPA’s efforts to protect it for my health, my family and my community.”
“We conclude that EPA violated the described provisions through its use of social media in association with its rulemaking efforts to define “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA) during FYs 2014 and 2015,” states GOA in the 26-page-report.
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