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White House Says Agencies Addressing Rogue Social-Media Posts

The White House says government agencies are taking action to address a rash of rogue posts on their social media pages following a temporary blackout on news releases and social media activity that at least one affected department is describing as a simple miscommunication.

(CN) - The White House says government agencies are taking action to address a rash of rogue posts on their social-media pages.

Earlier this week, several news outlets reported that internal emails at a number of federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and National Park Service, imposed a temporary blackout on news releases and social-media activity.

The action came as the Trump administration announced a freeze on federal hiring, contract approvals and grants awards pending a review by incoming department heads.

The edict sparked a counter offensive led by National Park Service employees who assailed President Donald Trump on his stated skepticism about climate change, complained they were being unfairly muzzled, and vowed to keep trying to get their message out.

After the Badlands National Park Service's Twitter account had its pro-science tweets deleted, a number of so-called rogue Twitter accounts sprouted up for the parks service, the EPA, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and NASA.

The AltUSNatParkService Twitter account launched Tuesday with an announcement that it had been "activated in time of war and censorship to ensure fact-based education" had 1.09 million followers by Thursday afternoon.

By comparison, the official National Park Service twitter account has 384,000 followers.

At the same time, posters on the twitter accounts for two other parks, Redwoods National Park and Golden Gate National Park, both in California, sought to pick up where the poster at Badlands National Park left off, tweeting about greenhouse gas emissions and climbing global temperatures.

Death Valley National Park tweeted photos of Japanese Americans interned there during World War II, a message interpreted as a protest against  Trump's pledge to ban Muslims from entering the country and restrict the flow of refugees to the United States.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Wednesday that the tweets on park service twitter sites were posted by an unauthorized user who used an old password to log into the Twitter account from the park service's San Francisco office.

Spicer characterized the tweets as being about "inappropriate things that were in violation of their policy."

Tweets were also sent Tuesday from the Defense Department's official account that took issue with President Trump's statements on the readiness of the military and the value of NATO.

On Wednesday, a "Rogue NASA" account went live on Twitter and 24 hours later it has 440,000 followers.

In its twitter profile, the account describes itself as the "unofficial resistance team:"at NASA. Its tweets have focused on climate change and criticism of President Donald Trump.

Spicer said all of these issues are currently being addressed, and on Thursday the Department of Agriculture appeared to be the first effected agency given the okay to resume its normal social-media activities.

The department issued a statement saying  the internal email that touched off the rancor among federal workers was sent out "without departmental direction and prior to departmental guidance being issued."

The statement went on to say that department research staff will soon be provided with new directives.

Allaying concerns over censorship of scientific work and data, the USDA added that "peer-reviewed scientific papers from the unit should not be blocked" and that its commitment to "maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public" remains intact.

And at NASA, spokeswoman Karen Northon said the agency has heard nothing from the Trump administration regarding social-media use, and that as regards that use, it's "business as usual."

The imbroglio followed  a heavy-handed attempt at image management hours after Donald Trump was sworn in as the nation's 45th president on Friday.

As the swearing-in ceremony was going on, a New York Times reporter tweeted side-by-side aerial photos comparing the crowd at Trump's inaugural to the crowd at President Barack Obama's inaugural in 2009.

It was soon retweeted by employees at the National Park Service, a branch of the Interior Department.

As the inaugural festivities continued into Friday night, Interior Department officials reportedly warned employees to curb their social-media usage, at least through the weekend.

The rogue tweets followed shortly thereafter.

Representatives of the effected agencies could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Categories / Government, Politics, Uncategorized

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