The Environmental Protection Agency “engaged in covert propaganda” when it used a social media platform to promote a controversial rule meant to safeguard U.S. waterways, according to a Government Accountability Office decision issued Monday.
The agency told FedScoop it followed the law.
GAO found the agency violated its publicity or propaganda rules by using Thunderclap — a “crowdspeaking” tool that allows a single message to be shared across Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr — to drum up support for the Waters of the U.S. rule during the public comment period.
“EPA created a Thunderclap message that did not identify EPA as the author to those who would read it when Thunderclap shared the message across social media accounts … Thus, we find EPA’s use of Thunderclap violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition,” the report said.
The watchdog also determined EPA didn’t follow anti-lobbying provisions when it hyperlinked advocacy group Web pages in an EPA blog post. However, the watchdog agency found that the agency’s #DitchtheMyth and #CleanWaterRules social media campaigns did not violate the rules.
The report is addressed to Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who requested the review. In a statement, Inhofe applauded the review.
“GAO’s finding confirms what I have long suspected, that EPA will go to extreme lengths and even violate the law to promote its activist environmental agenda,” he said.
Meanwhile, EPA argues that its use of social media was lawful.
“Our social media activity simply directed the recipient to the general webpage about the Clean Water Rule. EVERY stakeholder and EVERY stakeholder group — whether they supported or opposed the rule — was provided the same link to the general webpage on education and outreach materials, emails, and presentations, and were told the deadline for submitting public comments and how to do so,” wrote EPA spokeswoman Monica Lee in an email.