Rogue pro-science protest sites are sticking up for US federal climate research

By Kayla Epstein, Darryl Fears

A Twitter post from the National Park Service's Redwoods National Park account. The National Park Service employees' Twitter campaign against President Donald Trump has spread. Photo / AP
A Twitter post from the National Park Service's Redwoods National Park account. The National Park Service employees' Twitter campaign against President Donald Trump has spread. Photo / AP

What started as a gritty protest by a former Badlands National Park Service employee who wanted to give US President Donald Trump a piece of his mind has snowballed.

It is now a Twitter movement in support of climate change research.

An anonymous group of people who claim to be National Park Service employees created an account using the agency's official arrowhead logo as an avatar and unleashed on the Trump Administration for muzzling federal workers, particularly those at the Environmental Protection Agency who have been barred from speaking to the press and public through social media.

The Washington Post contacted the group via Twitter, without much success. "We will not be identifying ourselves due to the anger and threats coming from President Trump's loyalists," came an anonymous reply. "We are just here to push the science that is being dismantled by the current Administration."

Like the Badlands tweeter, who amassed more than 60,000 followers in a day, @AltUSNatParkService became a sensation. It had 614,000 followers.

The National Park Service explained that officials at Badlands rooted out an ex-employee who still had access to its Twitter account and shut down his tweets. But @AltUSNatParkService soon picked up where he left off, rapidly spitting climate change facts with the forcefulness of rappers such as Kendrick Lamar.

The tweets were factual jabs at the Trump Administration, which sent marching orders to the EPA, National Park Service and the Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture to stop disseminating climate facts, decline calls from reporters and drop scheduled meetings with media.

The Administration's stance toward the science may have had such a chilling effect that the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention voluntarily cancelled a climate change meeting.

The NPS arrowhead is the agency's emblem. It features a Sequoia tree, mountains and a bison. Photo / National Park Service.
The NPS arrowhead is the agency's emblem. It features a Sequoia tree, mountains and a bison. Photo / National Park Service.

Other protest accounts sprouted. There is @AltUSNationalParkService, a slight variation. Also, @AltNatParkService, @AltParkService, @AltNatParkSer and @AltUSEPA.

Jenna Ruddick of Washington owns one, US Science Service, or @natlsciservice. It started, the 26-year-old journalist and documentary filmmaker said, with a call from a colleague. "Wouldn't it be great if people started making rogue Twitter accounts to publicise science being done by agencies that are currently under media blackout?"

Her answer was, "Yeah . . . great."

"The major impact [of these rogue accounts] is that people are taking note, and it's raising red flags all over the place," Ruddick said. "One of the riskiest things would be for censorship, whether it's of journalists or of scientific institutions, to go unnoticed. Censorship is a very slippery slope."


Badlands had people up in arms over threats to the Park Service, she said, "but there are also other government institutions that would be at risk and I wanted to be able to highlight the great science being done by all of our government agencies."

The @AltUSNatParkService proclaimed solidarity with the EPA and used its account to promote another cause, a proposed march in Washington led by scientists.

- Washington Post

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 30 Mar 2017 20:50:20 Processing Time: 1164ms