So about that three percent…
This doesn't mean Twitter checkmark verification, it means working with a trusted, credible third party to verify that they are indeed current employees of the agencies they are unofficially representing. The third party could be a journalist, but it doesn't have to be. It could be the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or the American Civil Liberties Union. It could also be Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an organization that has assisted whistleblowers within the government since 1993. If done with a third party that has a history of protecting its sources, there would not be a substantial risk of prosecution or retribution from law enforcement."Whether they verify themselves in some way is up to them but until that happens I don't think people should be looking to them as leaders or as trustworthy sources of information," David Steen, an assistant research professor at Auburn University told me. "I have not seen any particularly interesting information from the 'rogue' accounts so I'm not sure what they're adding to the conversation other than encouraging a perception that there is internal turmoil within government agencies."
We're sorry, but we do not feel it is safe or in the public interest to identify ourselves. We have been advised of this by svl journalists. https://t.co/9z0QEKpNNe
— AltUSNatParkService (@AltNatParkSer) January 26, 2017
The rogue accounts have been posting mostly a stream of news and links about science, national parks, and politics, and jokes about the Trump administration. What they conspicuously have not included are reports from inside the agencies they unofficially represent. If that is going to continue to be the mission moving forward, then these accounts are not better than the news sources we already have, they are worse.Wednesday evening, AltUSNatParkService issued a series of tweets announcing that the account was being handed over to several anonymous environmental activists and two journalists: "We have decided to pass over control of this account to individuals outside of government employment for the sake of our colleagues," the account tweeted.What's been created, then, is a newsfeed with a huge readership being curated by an anonymous team of people. This is a situation that reminds me a lot of "unofficial" Twitter account for the Anonymous movement, which, behind the scenes, was barely affiliated with Anonymous and was subject to infighting and power struggles, to the detriment of that group's goals and the public's understanding of them."There are a ton of verified scientists and science journalists on Twitter—as well as a ton unverified but clearly authentic accounts—that I think people can follow to stay informed and gain a better understanding of how the scientific community is viewing ongoing policy changes and related discussions," Steen said.
Accounts that are expressly not being run by government workers, then, should not remain anonymous.To be clear, this is not an attack on the mission of supporting civil servants, and it's not an attack on the larger goal of protecting and advancing environmental protection and policy informed by science. Resisting Trump over the next four years will require bravery on the part of civil servants; speaking out about abuses within agencies will require hard, verified evidence in the form of documents, memos, and emails. It will at times require the politically vulnerable to speak out, on the record. It will require us to trust the source of these documents. If "alternative" agency Twitter accounts are to play a positive role, they need to start by gaining the public's trust.
Why does this matter? We are dealing with serious issues & a twitter account posting silly memes of no substance should not be spokesperson.
— David Steen, Ph.D. (@AlongsideWild) January 26, 2017