Employees from multiple US government agencies have launched a network of unofficial "rogue" Twitter accounts to resist what they consider President Donald Trump's attempts to stifle federal scientific research, particularly regarding climate change. Earlier this week, the Trump administration imposed a gag order on administrations such as the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), banning staff members from "providing updates on social media or to reporters".
Scientists at the EPA, Nasa and other federal agencies have privately created and launched "resistance" Twitter accounts in a digital rebellion on Trump's favourite social media platform to protest against the president's restrictions on the right to share scientific facts and information.
A group of people claiming to be National Park Service employees created a new Twitter account called "AltUSNatParkService," describing themselves as the "Unofficial 'Resistance' team of the US Park National Service".
"Can't wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS," the account, which borrowed the agency's official arrowhead logo, tweeted. "You can take our official twitter, but you'll never take our free time!"
The Twitter account has already garnered over 1.22 million followers.
Other "unofficial" accounts apparently created by people from various agencies including Nasa, the Food and Drug Administration, the US National Weather Service, the Centres for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health have also been created to join the online movement. Carrying the hashtags #resist and #resistance, these accounts have posted a flood of tweets including jabs at the president, facts about climate change and rising sea levels and other scientific information.
The @RogueNASA account features a disclaimer that reads: "The unofficial "Resistance" team of Nasa. Not an official Nasa account. Not managed by gov't employees. Come for the facts, stay for the snark."
"Rogue Twitter accounts are fun, but gov't employees and scientists are very afraid of being fired if they speak out & share facts #resist," @RogueNasa tweeted.
The @AltHHS account tweeted: "The Blackout will not make us Backout from our duty as scientists. #FactsMatter #FactsNotFear."
It is not clear who is running these accounts or whether they are actually affiliated with these federal agencies. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus tweeted out a link to Alice Stollmeyer's public Twitter list called "Twistance" which lists 50 resistance accounts and growing.
Last week, the US Department of Interior was ordered to "immediately cease" use of its official Twitter accounts after an employee re-tweeted posts comparing the crowd turnout at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration with that of President Trump's. Another re-tweeted post, which has since been deleted, read: "Civil rights, climate change, and health care scrubbed clean from White House website. Not a trace."
After the Badlands National Park's official account defied the gag order to post a slew of now-deleted tweets related to climate change, the Park Service blamed "a former employee" who was unauthorised to use the account. It also said that the park "was not told to remove the tweets but chose to do so" after realising the account was "compromised."
In response to the incident, Democrats and environmental activists slammed the Trump administration decrying what they see as censorship of scientific research and facts. During the presidential campaign, Trump called climate change a "hoax" invented by the Chinese.
Inspired by the Women's March last weekend, scientists are also organising their own non-partisan protest march called "Scientists' March on Washington" against the Trump administration's recent moves and "take a stand for science in politics".
"We cannot allow Mr Trump to silence the scientific community. We need peer-reviewed, evidence-based research MORE THAN EVER now," @RogueNASA posted in a series of tweets. "If posting facts and news to Twitter from a rogue account is what we have to do for the next four years, count us in. #resist."