Resistance by scientists and show of support for science by the public is reaching a new peak ever since the Trump administration first stopped the U.S. National Park from using Twitter and then restricted several other federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, from communicating with the media and the public. In defiance, many “Alt” or “rogue” versions of several federal agencies have cropped up. In an act of civil disobedience, the alternative accounts have taken on themselves the task of communicating with the public.
What provoked the administration to send an internal memo asking employees of the National Park Service to cease using government Twitter account was a retweet by the National Park Service of the side-by-side photos of the inauguration in 2009 and 2017, which clearly showed the thin crowd at Trump’s inauguration compared with Obama’s. It also tweeted about the disappearance of the White House’s webpages on climate change.
A tweet from @AltUSEPA, an alternative version of the Environmental Protection Agency, conveys the central message that scientists working in several U.S. federal agencies face today. “How sad is it that rogue Twitter accounts must exist just to communicate FACTS to the American public?,” reads the tweet. Being run by anonymous people, the government can do little to stop the alternative accounts. “This is the Alternative Environmental Protection Agency Twitter Accoburrrrunt activated to circumvent censorship,” a tweet reads. Try not
As a result, those manning these accounts do not want themselves to be exposed. When Washington Post reached out to the group at @AltUSEPA, the anonymous response was on expected lines — “We will not be identifying ourselves due to the anger and threats coming from President Trump’s loyalists. We are just here to push the science that is being dismantled by the current administration.” The @AltUSEPA too made known its intention through a tweet — “Media: Thank you for your interest. Nobody associated with this account will entertain any media requests or interviews.”
The first off the block was @AltNatParkSer, the unofficial “Resistance” team of the U.S National Park Service run by non-government individuals. As on January 28, four days after it was launched, the number of followers has swelled to 1.29 million.
“This account was started by a few guys with too much time on their hands who wanted to shout when the big boss wanted people to be silent,” it tweeted and described itself as: “We are just a bunch of people from different walks of life. But we share the common goal of wanting a better world, not an ‘alt-world’.”
Other “Alt” versions describing themselves as “the unofficial resistance team” have since cropped up. Check the growing list here: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (@AltUSDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (@AltUSEPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (@rogue_NOAA), the National Weather Service (@AlternativeNWS), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (@AlternateUSFW), the National Institute of Standards of Technology (@Alt_NIST), the Food and Drug Administration (@Alt_FDA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (@Alt_NASA) and (@RogueNASA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (@AltHHS), The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (@Alt_CDC)and the National Institutes of Health (@Alt_NIH).
Each account has a sizeable following already. For instance, the @AltUSEPA has 209,000 followers, @AltUSDA has 132,000, the @Alt_NASA has 111,000.
With stunning pictures of the U.S-Mexico border, the “rogue” account of the U.S. National Weather Service (@AlternativeNWS) appeals to the good sense of Americans saying: “We may be crazy, but it’s difficult to fathom that Americans wish a wall to be built through this gorgeous space”
Though the Twitter bio reads as the unofficial resistance team of the U.S. National Weather Service, a tweet clearly spells out that it is NWS employees who are running the account.
The @Alt_NASA account has some pretty straight messages to Trump. “Build spaceships not walls @POTUS!,” it said in one tweet and followed it up with another “The comparative ROI of a wall in the desert versus space exploration is significantly better with space exploration.”
In the end, Trump’s attempt to shoot the messenger has backfired hugely. By spawning several “rogue” Twitter accounts, the traditional method of information sharing has been disrupted and has led to a free-for-all situation.
Will Trump, who had openly declared a war on media, now learn a lesson or two from this and mend his ways to contain the damage?