A groundswell of fake Twitter accounts, with many asserting they are authorized to speak on behalf of the government, is inciting dissent and leading a "resist" Trump campaign. These bogus ‘alt’ accounts mimic the EPA, the National Parks Service, NASA, and USDA, replete with logos and links to official websites.

The anonymous users behind these accounts claim they are risking their livelihoods by tweeting denigrating posts about President Donald Trump, alarmist climate change talking points, and misleading information.

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Others are in response to a so-called ‘gag’ order issued by the new administration.

When President Obama assumed office in 2009, that same “gag order” was sent out to all agencies. Essentially, it required a cease-and-desist of social media posting until the new administration had a chance to formulate an agenda and to get new cabinet picks put in place.

The NY Times has recently interviewed veteran government employees, and they explain that the Trump administration is acting no differently than the Obama administration did in 2009. That’s quite a statement given nearly 90 percent of career government employees are Democrats.

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Who’s behind the curtain

Unfortunately, social media is ramping up misinformation to a fever pitch as these alt-Twitter accounts use sneaky tactics to imitate official federal agencies. Take for instance @BadIandsNPS (with a capital ‘i’ after the ‘d’), which was born yesterday and now has over 600 followers.

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One way to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not is the “birth date” of each account. Most of these alt-Twitter accounts were done in the last few days. The real Badlands Twitter account was created in 2011.

And no one knows who is behind the accounts because they are unverified and the true owners refuse to reveal themselves. The accounts could be operated by anti-fossil fuel groups, green groups, actual government employees, or as President Trump likes to say, “some fat guy sitting on his couch.” One fake account called @AltNatParkSer said it will transfer its account and 990 thousand followers over to activists.

Bogus vs. real accounts

The biggest problem arising from the alt-Twitter accounts is that ordinary Americans may not realize the accounts are bogus or are being run by activists opposed to this administration. And thanks to internet anonymity, these users can make unsubstantiated claims without fear of blowback.

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The official seals used by the various agencies are also copyrighted and can’t be used without permission. The EPA explicitly states its logo can never be used to imply “endorsement of any organization, idea, product or service,” yet it appears on the ever-growing list of alt-Twitter accounts.

A disservice to facts

Such rules are unlikely to stop the popularity and rise of these phony accounts, which may be pushing news that is acutely false and run by liberal activists.

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What isn’t in dispute is the rush by the media to use these rogue accounts as an in-road to bash the new administration. The media has even stepped up their efforts by imploring government employees to spill any dirt on the new administration.

At present, there appears little remedy for such misleading social media tactics, which is a disservice to the facts and the new administration. Even liberal media outlets are worried these new tactics will get employed by those on the right. One can only hope the general public becomes more savvy about filtering out the genuine from the fraudulent.

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