US 'resistance' movement coalesces... on Twitter

2017-01-28 14:23
The White House (File, AP)

The White House (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - A social media "resistance" movement is taking shape against the Trump administration, inspired by the new president's efforts to control information.

It began after the deletion of tweets and data from official US accounts and websites which proved embarrassing to the new president, including government reports on climate change, which have been challenged by President Donald Trump.

Some took to Twitter with "alternative" handles - claiming to be federal employees exercising their free speech rights - and the resistance mushroomed into a movement.

The seeds of rebellion were first planted by the National Park Service, which came under fire from the new administration for its photos comparing crowd size at Trump's inauguration to the event eight years earlier with Barack Obama.

After those tweets were deleted, tweets from one national park's account - which according to some reports came from a former employee - offered links to climate change studies, and when those were removed, a new @AltNatParkSer sprung up and amassed 1.2 million followers in a matter of days.

The account is described as "The Unofficial #Resistance team of US National Park Service."

"We don't want any trouble. We just want to keep peer-reviewed 'factually accurate' climate science flowing out of US institutions," the group said in one of its first tweets.

Over the next few days, dozens of "rogue" or "alt" Twitter accounts emerged, including @RogueNOAA (for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), @RogueNASA (for the space agency) and @alt_fda for the Food and Drug Administration.

Another account called AltEPA (@ActualEPAFacts), with more than 150,000 followers, aims to offer data which might be suppressed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"He can take our official Twitter but he'll never take our FREEDOM," the account says. "UNOFFICIALLY resisting."

The messages were gaining traction with hashtags such as #ResistTrump, #ClimateFacts and #Twistance, although it was not clear if the messages were coming from federal employees themselves.

Some of the Twitter handles, according to various tweets, have been turned over to people outside government to avoid potential reprisals.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer denied the administration was trying to suppress free expression among federal employees.

"There's nothing that's come from the White House, absolutely not," he said when asked if the White House had ordered a clampdown.

But according to The Washington Post, Trump personally expressed anger to the head of the US park service over the inauguration day photos and ordered him to produce images to show a stronger turnout for his ceremony.

Arab Spring redux?

Philip Howard, a professor at the Oxford Internet Institute who has studied the role of social media in the Arab Spring uprisings, said he sees some parallels to those events.

"Whenever governments try to close up the supply of information, people look for new ways to express themselves and share information," Howard said.

"Social media resistance was an important part of the Arab Spring, during which protesters successfully used social media to turn roiling dissent into massive street protests. It is hard to know if social media will have the same role in the US because Trump and his political communication team are already actively there on Twitter and Facebook."

John Wonderlich, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a group promoting transparency in government, called these actions unprecedented.

"It's a new kind mass resistance from employees who feel they can't talk to the public, and they are finding alternative channels," Wonderlich said.

"What is amazing is the public response, which is amplifying those voices."

Still, Wonderlich said the Trump administration's efforts to suppress and control data have raised concerns about the trustworthiness of information from the government.

"What we are seeing from the White House is anti-science, anti-government, anti-civil service and broad politicisation of the federal workforce," he said.

"All government information under a Trump administration is going to be inherently suspect."

But because anyone can create a Twitter account and claim to represent a constituency, this makes it difficult to separate truth from misinformation, Wonderlich said.

"This means a new model of verification (is needed) and no one has figured that out," he said.

 

Read more on:    nasa  |  donald trump  |  us

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.