25 January 2017

Smokey Goes Rogue!

Posted by Dan Satterfield

From NFS- A History of Smokey the Bear.

There are some strange things happening on the National Park Service Twitter accounts. It seems that someone posted factual information about climate change on the Twitter account for Badlands National Park  (South Dakota) on Tuesday, but the tweets were deleted. Not, however, before being captured and spread worldwide to an even larger audience than would have ever noticed them:

The data is not the issue here since it’s spot on, but the issue is why were they deleted? The deleted posts were replaced with this comment on the Nat. Park Service main page, and labelled “MISTAKEN Retweets”.

Now, having worked in and around news people for 37 years I can tell you that most of the time there’s not enough time/space to cover all of the interesting news, but if a journalist finds out that a government agency is hiding/deleting something, then even a man bites shark story is tossed out the window. Ask Bob Woodward if you doubt me. As Smokey would say, ‘where there’s smoke, there might be fire!

The net result is that the deleted tweets are now on the BBC worldwide website and in the Washington Post as well. I suspect they will be seen by a billion people over the next 48 hours. CNN has also covered the story and reports that the person who ordered the tweets deleted is not known. CNN’s calls to the park were not returned, but the Wash. Post reports it may have been a former employee who still has the parks Twitter password.

I was also informed tonight that “alternate Twitter accounts” have been set up for Badlands NP and the NPS. The Alt NPS Twitter has 95,000  860,000 followers, and I’m told it’s being run by former/current NPS personnel.  If anyone running these sites wants to enlighten me, my encrypted email address is [email protected]. I’d make sure you send it from an encrypted account on public wi-fi, just in case, and don’t expect me to recognise you at a conference. I’m terrible with names. Here (below) is a sample of the tweets from the ALT NPS Twitter page tonight.

If someone from the Department of the Interior/NPS would like to make a comment on the record about why the tweets were deleted, I’m interested in hearing from you. I don’t quite rank with CNN, but you never know! Also, the well-regarded open access peer-reviewed journal PLOS also posted a supporting tweet to the NPS tonight:

So ends day one of the great “rebellion of NPS social media managers”, as David Hoyt called it. The data they tweeted is undeniably correct, though the CO2 today is up to 406.47 PPM. Is this the beginning of a war between federal government scientists and the new administration? I don’t know but a lot of news sites, from the AP to the NY Times/Washington Post, have been publishing guides on how to send anonymous information to them. 

In any event, a thank you to the person who ordered the tweets deleted. We science bloggers have been trying to get the world to take note of these numbers for 20 years, and you did it for us by deleting a few tweets. So, from all of us who care about real science, a big thank you!

Note: I tried to sell this post to the Onion, but they said it was too unreal even for them (not really, but likely true anyhow).

updated with new numbers/minor correction 25 Jan. 2017