EPA joins conservative social network Parler
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with its administrator Andrew Wheeler have joined the conservative social network Parler.
Parler describes itself as a place where people can “speak freely … without fear of being ‘deplatformed’” and does not do fact-checking. Experts and journalists have found disinformation including climate change denial on the platform.
Its users include both traditional conservatives, including several lawmakers, and far-right groups.
Wheeler announced Wednesday on Twitter that he was joining the platform, though his first post appears to be from Tuesday.
Asked why the agency joined Parler, EPA spokesperson Molly Block said in an email that the reason was “to reach new audiences and promote the numerous environmental accomplishments made under the Trump Administration.”
The initial posts from the agency promoted its 50th anniversary, which was Wednesday, and touted the administration’s record on environmental issues.
Its new Parler audience gave the EPA a mixed reception. Some commenters on the agency’s posts praised the Trump administration while one particularly vulgar comment called the agency a “CLIMATE NAZI!!!!”’
Bret Schafer, a media and digital disinformation fellow at Alliance for Securing Democracy, told The Hill that he sees some positives in the agency’s decision to join Parler.
“It is generally a good thing to reach the audience where they are,” Schafer said. “There’s a potential to maybe debunk some things that are surfacing.”
He expressed concern, however, about legitimizing the platform if it becomes a place dominated by extremists.
“It’s hard to predict what that platform is going to become in six months. And if it truly does become sort of a conservative alternative to Twitter, then, sure, I think it’s helpful to have government agencies there,” he said. “If it becomes more of a 4Chan, 8Chan place where conspiracies are running wild, I don’t know necessarily if having a government agency on a platform … then just sort of legitimizes some of the more problematic content that’s being shared there.”
The agency’s time on the platform may also wind up being short, as it would be up to the Biden administration to determine whether it wants to continue using Parler post-inauguration.