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The EPA broke the law with social media 'propaganda,' ruling says

When the Environmental Protection Agency used social media to support a clean water rule from the Obama administration, it violated the law in the process, a ruling released by watchdog agency the Government Accountability Office says.

The Waters of the United States rule is intended to protect streams and surface waters in the United States, The New York Times reports, but the EPA's support of the rule — seen in campaigns on Twitter and Facebook, among other services — violated laws that prevent federal agencies from lobbying for a cause. The GAO ruling called the EPA's actions "covert propaganda," the Times reports, although the decision will likely not lead to civil or criminal penalties. A spokesperson for the EPA also told the Times that "[a]t no point did the EPA encourage the public to contact Congress or any state legislature."

The decision could be closely watched by agencies wondering where the line on information and activism should be drawn on social media. Meanwhile, as the Times explains, Republican legislators hoping to block the rule during a budget showdown this week just got more ammo for their cause.