Alternative facts and fake news, meet Alt-Twitter. In the last few days, a growing number of Twitter accounts have been started claiming to be the “alternative” or “rogue” voices of U.S. government workers and agencies.
It started with the brouhaha over tweets from two National Park Service accounts and the reaction to them from the White House.
An @AltNatParkSer account quickly sprang up claiming to be the “unofficial resistance team of U.S. National Park Service” and has to-date amassed 1.3 million followers — that’s three times as many followers and the legitimate @NatlParkService account.
The account says it’s run by environmental activists and journalists, not government workers, and that’s the case for many of the other alternative accounts that are now online.
Like the Alt US Forest Service, Rogue NASA, Alt CDC, and NOAA Uncensored, many of the tens of accounts appear to be set up by sympathizers to show support for science-focused agencies that are facing changes and restrictions under the new administration.
But not all.
Perhaps none is as daring as @RoguePOTUSStaff, which purports to come directly from the White House. It has been tweeting out overhead conversations and White House gossip to its 83,000 followers since Wednesday.
For anyone following presidential politics this week, it makes for juicy reading but — and this is important — no-one can say for sure whether any of it is real.
The bio on the account claims it is run by “the unofficial resistance team inside the White House,” but that’s all. The person or people running the account have been asked for verification but have declined to provide it.
It’s worth remembering that the fake news stories that rose to prominence during the election campaign were written in a way to confirm suspicions or beliefs that a group of the electorate already held, and the same can be said of the RoguePOTUSStaff Twitter feed if the audience is scared and skeptical liberals.
But the account holder does at least appear to have some knowledge of government affairs, writing on Friday that the account could be a “violation of Hatch Act.”
The Hatch Act is legislation that prohibits government employees from engaging in political acts while on the job.
For now, the alternative accounts don’t represent a big challenge to official outlets. The government’s U.S. Digital Registry lists 3,347 official Twitter accounts, so the resistance has some way to go.