(TNS) -- WASHINGTON — Hours after it was reported that the Trump administration had banned scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency from speaking with reporters or using the agency’s social media accounts, someone with access to U.S. National Park Service social media accounts went rogue, tweeting a series of scientific facts — and possibly forming an unofficial “resistance team” online.
On Tuesday, news outlets reported that the White House had issued a mandatory media blackout on several agencies, including the EPA and the Interior and Agriculture departments. It isn’t clear how widespread the freeze is, because individual agencies aren’t allowed to announce that they’ve been banned from making announcements.
The blackout rules extended to social media, where agency employees were instructed not to publish new posts on Facebook, Twitter or other sites. But on Tuesday evening, someone with access to the official Twitter account of the Badlands National Park decided to go off script, sharing a series of factual statements about climate change and the impact of gasoline on the atmosphere.
“Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years,” one tweet read. “Burning one gallon of gasoline puts nearly 20 lbs of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere,” read another.
Within hours, the tweets were deleted. Officials with the National Park Service said they’d been shared by “a former employee who was not currently authorized to use the park’s account,” and said they had voluntarily chosen to remove the unauthorized tweets. But other sources believed the deletion of the tweets amounted to censorship.
“Vladimir Putin would be proud,” Adrienne Watson, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said in a written statement.
The Badlands Twitter account wasn’t the only account affiliated with the federal government to share tweets about climate change, apparently in defiance of the White House’s gag order. The San Francisco-based account for the Golden Gate urban national park shared a report about rising global temperatures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and even NASA climate scientists got in on the action, sharing their own report on climate change.
Meanwhile, a series of unofficial Twitter accounts have cropped up online to defend the National Park Service. "@BadIandsNPS," which has had many widely shared tweets, replaced the “l” in “lands” with an uppercase “I,” and looks indistinguishable from the real account at first glance. “@BadHombreNPS” mocks President Donald Trump’s campaign reference to “bad hombres” entering the country.
Only one account, @AltUSNatParkService, claims to be run by current employees of the real National Park Service. Its biography describes the account as an “unofficial ‘resistance’ team” — but the veracity of the authors’ claims has not been proved and they did not return requests for comment.
Trouble with the National Park Service-run Twitter accounts originally began the day of Trump’s inauguration, when the main account of the organization shared a tweet from a New York Times reporter comparing the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration to the size of the crowd at former President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.
The park service later apologized for “the mistaken” retweet.
The relatively smaller size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration has proved to be a sore spot for the new president. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, insisted on Saturday that Trump had drawn “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration,” which Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway later defended as “alternative facts.”
Spicer has since said he was referring to overall viewership of the ceremony, including television broadcasts and online streaming.
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