(CNN)It began with one account.
Subsequent to the National Park Service tweeted pictures comparing the size of US President Donald Trump’s inauguration using the bigger bunch at Barack Obama’s, incoming government officials ordered the account to avoid posting.
An “alternative” report shortly sprang up, tweeting criticism of the President and bringing thousands of followers.
Dozens more immediately followed the @AltNatParkSer report. You will find now at least 50 “unofficial” or “alternative” accounts purporting to represent the perspectives of authorities staffers or agencies.
Most of the accounts make use of the official symbols of the sections they claim to represent, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, or various regional park services.
The reports come in the aftermath of the Trump management’s crack down on government agencies. EPA workers have now been instructed to not send press releases or post anything on social networking and are prohibited from communicating with all the media. The government is analyzing the EPA’s web site that other scientific data as well as climate change could be taken off.
While the accounts have racked up millions of followers between them (the first @AltNatParkSer has more than 1.2 million followers alone), signs that they’ve anything to do with the bureaus they purport to represent has been less coming.
“Not an official NASA report. Not handled by gov’t workers,” reads the profile description of @RogueNASA, an account with more than half a million followers.
In its profile, @AltNatParkSer says it’s “the unofficial #Opposition team of U.S. National Park Service. Not citizen subsidised!”
Using a British spelling of “subsidized” is one of several points critics on Twitter have raised concerning the accounts, as well as an overall shortage of what may be termed insider information.
Most of exactly what the reports print are digs about climate change in the Trump management, along with pictures of national parks or tweets.
@ AltNatParkSer has repeatedly refused to identify individuals supporting the report, mentioning security concerns.
On Thursday, the account maintained it’d handed over control to “individuals outside of government employment for the sake of our colleagues.”
It afterwards tweetedthe brand new team “were environmental activists and two are journalists [our FACT checkers] . All folks are former scientists.”
The account failed to react to some request for opinion.
David Steen, an assistant professor of wildlife and conservation at Auburn University in Alabama, is a consistent critic of the “alternative” accounts, pointing out that many don’t deal with substantive conditions that concern staffers in the bureaus they purport to represent.
“Why does this issue? We’re coping with serious problems (and) a Twitter report posting daft memes of no material must not be (a) representative,” he wrote on Thursday.
Other critics concur. Libby Watson, a former staffer for the pro-foil Sunlight Foundation and writer for Gizmodo, said she was skeptical of the motivations behind the reports as well as their refusal to be confirmed.
“If these accounts are presenting themselves as actual government employees going rogue and risking their jobs when they actually aren’t, I think that’s a strange and gross thing to do, even if their intentions are good,” she said.
“More worrying still is the chance that a few of these accounts were not set up in good faith: high-follower accounts can be sold, for real cash. When something gets popular online, it is unavoidable that others will piggyback off that success; I believe that is likely occurred here to some extent.”
Twitter failed to react to some request for opinion on its policies regarding pastiche and parody reports.
Concern with being targeted
@ AltMtRainierNPS, an “unofficial” report for the Mount Rainier National Park Service, told CNN that it might consider contacting an “appropriate group to verify once we have assurances we will not be targeted.”
“It is not about the folks running the reports, it is about the move it is created. We might never reveal our identity because of the present political ecosystem,” they said.
The report confirmed to CNN the folks running it were based in the Pacific Northwest.
Another report told CNN called the service would reject it, although it was conveying with Twitter about confirmation.
It said it had been additionally open to speaking to journalists in future.