The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was found last week to have used social media illegally to create a propaganda campaign.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled that the EPA’s campaign to promote the Waters of the United States rule violated the law because it was an attempt to influence the public and it urged people to contact Congress in support of the rule. Propaganda and lobbying by U.S. agencies are prohibited by federal law.
Also known as the Clean Water Rule, the Waters of the United States rule was instituted last spring but put on hold by a federal appeals court while it’s appealed. The rule is designed to promote clean water by restricting how land around certain bodies of surface water may be used. It’s opposed by farmers and ranchers, business organizations and Republicans.
The GAO’s investigation of the EPA campaign had been requested by Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The EPA denies that its campaign was propaganda or a lobbying effort. “We use social media tools just like all organizations to stay connected and inform people across the country about our activities,” Liz Purchia, an agency spokeswoman, said, according to The New York Times. “At no point did the EPA encourage the public to contact Congress or any state legislature.”
One message was sent out on Thunderclap, a social media tool that allows sharing on a wide scale. That message, which reached 1.8 million people at once, read: “Clean…