National Park Service tweeting again after suspension

Posted at 1:29 PM, Jan 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-21 13:29:35-05

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Interior Department began tweeting again Saturday, a day after an employee shared tweets that appeared unsympathetic to President Donald Trump and prompted a temporary, department-wide freeze on tweeting from its official accounts.

The Twitter prohibition came Friday after the official account of the National Park Service - a bureau of the department - retweeted a pair of posts to its 315,000 followers that seemed to be a swipe at Trump on his initial day in office. The first was a photo that compared the crowd gathered on the National Mall for Trump to the much-larger gathering that stood in the same spot eight years earlier for President Barack Obama's swearing-in.

The second pointed out that webpages about some issues, including climate change and civil rights, had been removed from the White House site.

A spokesman for the National Park Service said Saturday that the retweets "were inconsistent with the agency's approach to engaging the public through social media."

"Out of an abundance of caution, while we investigated the situation involving these tweets, the Department of Interior's communications team determined that it was important to stand down Twitter activity across the department temporarily, except in the case of public safety," said the spokesman, Tom Crosson.

The retweets were deleted from the National Park Service account. The department began tweeting again Saturday morning, with the first post reading that "we regret the mistaken RTs from our account yesterday."

Trump weaponized his own Twitter account during the campaign, using it to bash opponents and share his messages directly to his supporters.

Government policies state that federal agencies must agree with the contents of its social media posts. For decades, the National Park Service provided official crowd estimates for gatherings on the National Mall but no longer does.

The policy changed after the Million Man March in 1995, a gathering of black men meant to show renewed commitment to family and solidarity. The park service estimated 400,000 people attended the march, making it one of the largest demonstrations in history in Washington.

But organizers believed they reached their goal of 1 million participants and threatened legal action. No lawsuit was filed, but the dispute was enough to get the park service out of the head-counting business.

Confirmation hearings began this past week for Trump's choice to run the Interior Department, U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana.