Update, Jan. 25: A spokesperson for Golden Gate National Recreation Area responded to Motherboard's question about the park's Twitter content. Specifically, whether they would continue to share climate science facts, and what they planned to do if the Trump Administration attempted to censor that content. The spokesperson said their "guidance is to continue engagement as normal, with the exception of social media posts on the Secretary of the Interior's policy priorities, which will be outlined upon confirmation."
Update, Jan. 24: The National Park Service said in a statement that "a former employee who was not currently authorized to use the park's account" was responsible for the tweets from Badlands National Park. The agency also said the tweets were deleted according to staffers' own discretion.
Refusing to be silenced by President Trump, some of America's national parks have been tweeting about climate change.
While this might sound pedestrian (and it should), most Twitter handles managed by the National Park Service haven't mentioned the topic since Trump staffers temporarily gagged the Department of the Interior account for retweeting photos of his meager inauguration turnout. The fear inside the agency is palpable; especially since Trump issued an edict banning Environmental Protection Agency employees from sharing information on social media.
Over the course of a few hours, the Badlands National Park Twitter account shared a series of facts about atmospheric carbon dioxide and ocean acidification. While the term "climate change" was never mentioned, the intent of the tweets was self-evident: Man-made activity is the primary driver of climate change.
The account gained nearly 70,000 followers over the course of the afternoon.
Then, suddenly, the aforementioned tweets disappeared. It's unclear whether the Trump Administration contacted the park about its Twitter activity, or whether someone at the national park requested the tweets be deleted.
Attempts to reach the Badlands National Park press office for their comment were unsuccessful.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area account also drew attention, tweeting a GIF of global temperature increases between 1850 and 2016. The account cited a report from NASA and NOAA explaining that globally, 2016 was the hottest year on record.
As of this story's publication, the tweet still remains up.
A spokesperson for Golden Gate National Recreation Area declined to comment at the moment on the park's decision to tweet about climate change, in spite of Trump's actions against the National Park Service account.
Few predicted the Twitter accounts of national parks would be first up against the wall. As disseminators of scientific information, as well as basic public service announcements, their muzzling may put American citizens at risk. At the bare minimum, many people will find it that much harder to access information about climate change.
"Merely five days into Donald Trump's presidency, the administration is silencing the agencies tasked with protecting our environment, our health, and our food supply. This [Environmental Protection Agency] gag order sets a dangerous precedent and is sending a chilling message to civil servants throughout the country," Emily Southard, a campaign director at ClimateTruth.org, said in a statement.
Some have also questioned whether the deletion of National Park Service tweets is in violation of the Federal Records Act, which requires each agency to preserve its records—including social media—for posterity.
Considering the Trump Administration's hostile attitude toward science in general, we're likely to see more of the same in the coming months and years.
If you have information or tips about social media censorship at national park offices, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.