After the National Park Service retweeted messages that negatively compared the crowd sizes at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration to Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday, representatives from the new administration asked the Interior Department’s digital team to temporarily stop using Twitter — a decision the agency now claims was out of a concern the account was hacked.
The National Park Service Twitter account retweeted this observation from New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum on Friday: “Compare the crowds: 2009 inauguration at left, 2017 inauguration at right.” The tweet contained images from both events showing an apparent difference in crowd size. The retweet has since been deleted.
After the retweet began to get attention, a career staffer at the Interior Department instructed employees that the “new administration has said that the department and all bureau are not supposed to tweet this weekend and wait for guidance until Monday.”
The message continued, “Please make sure that any scheduled tweets are no longer scheduled,” and referred all questions to another career staffer at the department.
On Saturday, the National Park Service called Friday’s retweets “mistaken.”
“We regret the mistaken RTs from our account yesterday and look forward to continuing to share the beauty and history of our parks with you,” the account tweeted.
A Park Service source tells CNN the decision to stop tweeting was in order to investigate whether or not the account had been hacked. The agency does not share crowd size estimates, dating back to controversy over the Million Man March in 1995.
New social media guidance issued Saturday cited an “abundance of caution.”
“Out of an abundance of caution, while we investigated the situation involving these tweets, the Department’s communications team determined that it was important to stand down Twitter activity across the Department temporarily, except in the case of public safety,” the new guidance states.
“Now that social media guidance has been clarified, the Department and its bureaus should resume Twitter engagement as normal this weekend, with the exception of social media posts on the Secretary’s policy priorities, which will be outlined upon confirmation.”
Trump’s nominee to lead the department, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, is expected to be confirmed in the near future.
Gizmodo first reported the direction from the administration to stop tweeting Friday.
That order to stop tweeting impacted all accounts under the Interior Department’s purview, including individual National Park accounts that are, at times, used to communicate emergency messages to visitors.
“Until further notice, all park road condition updates will provided on the Mount Rainier Facebook page,” Mount Rainier National Park tweeted on Friday.