Why are US scientists going "rogue" against President Trump?

A network of unofficial Twitter feeds of a dozen US federal agencies has sprung up to "resist" Donald Trump. The digital protest is in response to the Trump administration's restrictions on climate change research and other science information.

Photo by: Twitter: @AltNatParkSer
Photo by: Twitter: @AltNatParkSer

The largest of the Twitter feeds, with more than a million followers, is @AltNatParkSer, which is the unofficial #Resistance team of U.S. National Park Service.

Who are the people behind these Twitter accounts?

Current and former employees of federal agencies, scientists, environmental activists, journalists and their supporters are operating the accounts. Some feeds were privately launched and others are run by small teams. 

They have borrowed the names and logos of a number of departments, which include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Park Service, Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Forest Service, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Weather Service, and NASA among others.

Why are they protesting?

They are protesting government restrictions they see as 'censorship'.

In the first week of the new administration, gag orders and suspensions were issued on US federal agencies, restricting their media access and social media use. Internal directives were given to several environmental agencies, requiring them to curb their dissemination of information to the public.

Last week, Interior Department staff were told to stop posting on Twitter after an employee re-tweeted posts about the low attendance at Trump's inauguration. Employees from other agencies, such as the EPA and the Health Department, confirmed the notices asking them to remove web pages and limit their social media usage. 

Many government employees were concerned about how material on climate change and civil rights had disappeared from the White House website.  

What do the "rogue" scientists want to achieve?

The unofficial EPA account called @ActualEPAFacts told BBC News the feed, run by three EPA employees, was set up after a gag order stopped them from giving interviews relating to their research.

They told BBC News that their goal is to make sure "factual information about climate change and other scientific research continues to be shared during the Trump administration".

The @AltNatParkSer, who claim to be National Park Service employees, told The Washington Post they are fearful of losing their jobs if they identify themselves.

“We will not be identifying ourselves due to the anger and threats coming from President Trump’s loyalists...we are just here to push the science that is being dismantled by the current administration," the group told The Washington Post.

What are they tweeting about?

They are directly addressing the president and undermining his tweets. Many accounts are tweeting facts about carbon emissions and climate change, using #Climate and #Resist.

Are other people getting involved?

Yes. Many celebrities, politicians and people are supporting the protest by tweeting using #ClimateFacts.

How are the US and global science community responding?

It's difficult to measure at this stage. However many have joined the digital protest, which has garnered national and international support.

It comes after an online campaign was launched on January 24 to organise a "Scientists' March on Washington," similar to the Women's March. The group said they intend to take "a stand for science in politics."

Days after Trump's inauguration, reports emerged that swaths of scientists are also preparing to run for political office, in a bid to "make America smart again."

Canadian scientists, who for nine years under their previous government suffered harsh restrictions, have also expressed support and solidarity with their US counterparts.

Author: Mohamed Taha

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies