The official Twitter for the National Parks Service (NPS) retweeted two photos negatively comparing the size of the crowd at former-President Barack Obama’s inauguration to President Donald Trump’s recent inauguration on Jan. 21. The tweet was quickly deleted by the account, but not before many Twitter users read the retweet. Consequently, representatives from the Trump administration contacted the Department of the Interior in order to temporarily stop the use of the Twitter account. The agency claims that it was “out of concern that the account had been hacked.” However, the retweet proved to garner attention throughout social media, which prompted the Department of the Interior to issue a stop to all government-run Twitter accounts until the following week. The NPS then tweeted an apology for the previous retweets, citing that the content of the tweets was inconsistent with the agency’s mission.
Within the days following the initial shutdown of the NPS twitter account, the account for Badlands National Park went “rogue.” Tweets from the account stated scientific facts regarding climate change. These tweets were also deleted soon after they were posted, but not before other Twitter users saw them through the social media platform. An NPS official stated that the tweets were posted by a former employee with no authorization to do so.
Both forms of unauthorized tweeting came as the Trump administration ordered a contract freeze and temporary media blackout of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The administration also ordered a suspension of all business interactions involving the EPA.
Three days after the social media blackout was ordered, the Twitter account “AltUSNatParkService” was created. The account tweeted support for the NPS, as well as further facts about climate change and negative comments towards Trump and his administration. This was only the first of many rogue accounts to follow. Other accounts included “AltUSForestService” and “BadHombreLands NPS,” referring to a comment made by Trump about “bad hombres.” However, it remains unclear who is running these accounts and whether they are government officials. The AltUSNatParkService account recently stated that it is being run by non-governmental persons.
The creation of rogue accounts has not been limited to national parks. The Twitter account for “Rogue NASA” has more than 800,000 followers. Yet, accounts such as these are not a new phenomenon. Many accounts have been created to provide commentary on other events around the world. National Public Radio’s Wynne Davis mentioned how there is something different about the accounts that are surfacing around this issue.
“What’s different about the number of rogue accounts that have come about as a result of the Trump administration’s apparent gag orders on some federal agencies is that this form of expression could be a logical way to oppose a media blackout,” Davis said.