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Twitter: A Double-Edged Sword | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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U.S. President Donald Trump . REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Washington – U.S. President Donald Trump began his Saturday morning with tweets attacking two of the major U.S. newspapers, followed by series of calls with international leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump attacked “Washington Post” and “New York Times” for their lack of integrity.

A new “resistance” movement began on social media after Trump tried to control information. His administration is accused of deleting tweets tweets and data from official U.S. accounts and Web sites that were deemed embarrassing to the new president.

The deleted tweets included government reports on climate change, which have been challenged by Trump.

Twitter is Trump’s favorite social media which he resorts to express his thoughts on various issues, thus making it crucial for any medial outlet to follow this account for any new tweet.

New twitter handles were created with the “alternative facts”. The resistance evolved into a movement, reported AFP.

The seeds of rebellion were first planted by the U.S. National Park Service, which came under fire from the new administration for its photographs comparing crowd size at Trump’s inauguration with the event eight years earlier with then-U.S. president Barack Obama.

Those tweets were then deleted, another tweets from one national park’s account emerged, which some reports claim they come from a former employee. The tweets had links to climate change studies, and when those were removed. Then, a new @AltNatParkSer sprung up and amassed 1.2 million followers in a matter of days.

Some described the account as “The Unofficial Resistance team of U.S. National Park Service.”

In one of its tweets, the group said: “We don’t want any trouble. We just want to keep peer-reviewed factually accurate climate science flowing out of US institutions.”

Over the next few days, dozens of “rogue” or “alt” Twitter accounts emerged, including @RogueNOAA for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, @RogueNASA for the space agency and @alt_fda for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Another account called AltEPA @ActualEPAFacts, with more than 150,000 followers, aims to offer data which might be suppressed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “He can take our official Twitter but he’ll never take our FREEDOM,” the account says.

The messages were gaining traction with hashtags such as #ResistTrump, #ClimateFacts and #Twistance, although it was not clear if the messages were coming from federal employees themselves.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer denied the administration was trying to suppress free expression among federal employees.

However, according to the Washington Post, Trump personally expressed anger to the head of the U.S. park service over the inauguration day photos and ordered him to produce images to show a stronger turnout for his ceremony.

Professor at the Oxford Internet Institute, Philip Howard said he sees some parallels to those events with the Arab Spring.

Howard has studied the role of social media in the Arab Spring uprisings.

“Whenever governments try to close up the supply of information, people look for new ways to express themselves and share information,” Howard said.

“Social media resistance was an important part of the Arab Spring, during which protesters successfully used social media to turn roiling dissent into massive street protests. It is hard to know if social media will have the same role in the US, because Trump and his political communication team are already actively there on Twitter and Facebook,” he explained.

Executive director for the Sunlight Foundation, John Wonderlich called these actions unprecedented.

“It’s a new kind mass resistance from employees who feel they can’t talk to the public, and they are finding alternative channels,” Wonderlich said.

Sunlight Foundation is a group promoting transparency in government.

Still, Wonderlich said the Trump administration’s efforts to suppress and control data have raised concerns about the trustworthiness of information from the government.

“What we are seeing from the White House is anti-science, anti-government, anti-civil service and broad politicization of the federal workforce,” he said.

“All government information under a Trump administration is going to be inherently suspect,” he stressed, adding that: “This means a new model of verification (is needed) and no one has figured that out.”