Donald Trump’s inauguration sparked controversy long before the president-elect was ever sworn in as president. This past Friday, reports surfaced indicating the Department of the Interior had been banned from Twitter on orders from the incoming administration due to anti-Trump posts and retweets. The question is, was the Interior Department banned from Twitter in reality?
The tweets in question relate to posts from one of the National Park Service Twitter feeds. The tweets shared by an unnamed National Park Service employee compared the crowds at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration to Donald Trump’s, claiming a significant decrease in the turnout. The retweeted posts point out changes made to the official White House website, referencing climate change, civil rights, and LGBT info being taken down or re-routed to the Obama administrations’ archive.
— Binyamin Appelbaum (@BCAppelbaum) January 20, 2017
The National Park Service did temporarily cease posting on Twitter after an email circulated among staffers. However, as the Independent Journal Review points out, “‘stop tweeting,’ and ‘banned from Twitter’ are not synonymous. Some staffers were told to stop tweeting, pending a review, because they performed their jobs unsatisfactorily, according to the standards of the new president.”
While much of the media is proclaiming the cessation of tweeting to be a “ban,” the official email, obtained by Gizmodo, sent to the employees does not say the Interior Department was banned from Twitter.
We have received direction from the Department through [the Washington Support Office] that directs all [Department of Interior] bureaus to immediately cease use of government Twitter accounts until further notice.
PWR parks that use Twitter as part of their crisis communications plans need to alter their contingency plans to accommodate this requirement. Please ensure all scheduled posts are deleted and automated cross-platform social media connections to your twitter accounts are severed. The expectation is that there will be absolutely no posts to Twitter.
In summary, this Twitter stand down means we will cease use of Twitter immediately. However, there is no need to suspend or delete government accounts until directed.
This does not affect use of other approved social media platforms. We expect further guidance to come next week and we will share accordingly.
Thanks for your help!”
The Interior Department encompasses several smaller bureaus, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, among others.
While Donald Trump’s policies certainly are cause for discussion, what should be clear is the Interior Department/National Park Service implemented the so-called Twitter ban on its own. Furthermore, IJR reports an official spokesperson for the Interior Department “said the agency is investigating whether the retweets were purposeful, ‘errant’ or ‘whether we’ve been hacked.'”
Earlier today, the National Park Service posted a tweet, claiming the retweets were a mistake.
We regret the mistaken RTs from our account yesterday and look forward to continuing to share the beauty and history of our parks with you pic.twitter.com/mctNNvlrmv
— NationalParkService (@NatlParkService) January 21, 2017
It will be interesting to see what the fallout for the Trump administration is from the alleged abuse of power, which appears to have been blown significantly out of proportion to what actually occurred. The National Park Service is not known for making major political statements or jabbing at any particular political party. Rather, the NPS tends to focus on nature, beautiful photos, and generally making the world a brighter, more cheerful place.
That an employee used the Park Service’s Twitter feed for political purpose does not fit with the typical operating behavior of the organization. As such, a widespread suspension — not ban, not deletion of Twitter accounts — followed while the matter could be investigated.
So what do you think of the National Park Service’s so-called Twitter ban? Was Donald Trump responsible for the shut-down, or was this simply a typical investigation of unauthorized/non-standard publishing on social media? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Kevin Dietsch – Pool/Getty Images]