As the Trump administration races to silence scientists in government, some federal employees are mounting small but visible resistance efforts. The Twitter account for Badlands National Park posted a stream of climate facts today, seemingly in protest of the Trump administration’s gag order on the Environmental Protection Agency. But the tweets later disappeared after gaining traction online.
The casual deletion follows a strange and unsettling turn of events last week, when someone with access to the @NatlParkService account undid several sly anti-Trump retweets just hours after Trump’s inauguration. In an email sent to government employees and obtained by Gizmodo, it appeared that a high-ranking member of the Trump administration, if not Trump himself, got wind of the criticism and issued a top-down order for the NPS to cease all Twitter operations.
After a public apology on Saturday, the NPS account and other affiliated handles resumed activity. Still, the brief and observed social media blackout has become a shining example of the silencing tactics the Trump administration may use against any an all members of the government who don’t fall in line.
In response to the EPA gag order and other incidents of Twitter crackdowns, Democratic National Committee press Adrienne Watson issued a blunt statement today: “Vladimir Putin would be proud.”
The fight over what government employees can and cannot express on public social media channels is sure to escalate in the coming months as Trump and his inner circle seek to suppress dissent and clamp down on speech it dislikes. The NPS’s Twitter accounts may seem like a trivial first step. Yet it could be just the beginning of a larger struggle between Trump and government employees desperate to inform the public about issues the president has taken a firm anti-science stance on.
While Twitter crackdowns are certainly disheartening, the Trump administration has already begun more severe measures to undermine pro-climate change efforts. Earlier today, the White House froze the EPA’s grants and contracts and banned employees from providing updates on the situation via social media.
Employees of the Department of Agriculture have also been gagged. This is ostensibly because research funds through the USDA have at times been used to investigate methods to cut down on greenhouse gases, a major contributing factor to climate change. That’s precisely why someone behind the @BadlandsNPS account felt it neccesary to take a stand, even if it may result in serious internal backlash. “Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years,” the account tweeted, shortly before the information was wiped from the page.