Twitter's Alts and Rogues

Twitter is full of "alt-gov", or alternate government, accounts — but without verification, it's difficult to know whom to trust.

Published June 1, 2017

The Trump administration has ushered in a number of unprecedented events, many of which would have seemed impossible only a year ago. The administration has been dogged by rumors of Russian interference, allegations of corruption and sweetheart appointments, and leak after leak of sensitive information.

One of the more remarkable cultural phenomena that appeared immediately after President Donald Trump's inauguration is known collectively as "the Alts," so called because the movement comprises particular Twitter accounts used in response to blanket restrictions on public servants' speaking to members of the news media (or making any public statements at all) by positioning those who control those accounts as alternate, and anonymous, voices of the federal government.

The movement began when the National Park Service tweeted commentary about web pages disappearing from White House web site and also retweeted an image showing relatively sparse crowds at President Trump's inauguration that directly contradicted the new chief executive's claims of record-breaking attendance numbers:

In retaliation, the Trump administration yanked the National Park Service's ability to tweet information. Suddenly, accounts describing themselves as government "alts" and "rogues" sprang up and began dotting Twitter's political landscape. These accounts are run anonymously but seemingly encompass alts from nearly every branch of the federal government. Some accounts offer juicy gossip, others vent, while still others function directly as whistleblowers.

Image courtesy: Twitter user @altGS_ROCKS

But given that Twitter accounts can be faked, and Twitter will not verify pseudonymous accounts, navigating the world of the alt accounts can be confusing. Who is a hoaxer, and who is real?

We have been working to compile a list of verified alt accounts so that we can provide readers a reliable guide. In this way, we hope to provide our own verification system so that journalists, researchers, and other members of the public can know whom to trust and not foster the spread of misinformation — or worse yet, disinformation.

What has come to be called the #AltGov community (who represent areas of government) and #AltFam (who support them) on Twitter includes many members. Some members work with, or within, the government; some work in the fields they represent on Twitter and convey information to and from entities that would otherwise be gagged; still others are part of a trusted support network who do not claim to represent any particular part of the federal government, with the stated goal of disseminating accurate information.

We cannot guarantee everything every account posts is true or direct insider information; however, we can verify that each has a legitimate connection to what they're posting about.

Twitter user @altGS_ROCKS told us:

For me, I want to empower others in the resistance, join the cause, to let them know they are not alone and that they are safe with us.  I also want to make sure good information is circulating on Twitter.

"EPA staff were appalled by the gag order, and we are still under lockdown," said @RogueEPAStaff:

It's a hostile takeover. We want to be a conduit so people know the politicals aren't speaking for scientists and that the scientists are unbent, unbowed, unbroken. The unexpected gift has been the outpouring of love and support!

Maybe the thing I'm most proud of is the public education and engagement. When Pruitt agreed to hold public meetings on the question of which regulations EPA should kill, we were the first to put out the word, and the AltGov and Resistance community helped it snowball. EPA got so many comments about keeping our environmental protections intact that it generated major media coverage. Regardless of what Pruitt decides, the comments are all part of the official record now.

Our methods for verification are varied: they involve everything from meeting with or speaking to the people behind the accounts and double- and triple-checking their information and IDs, to getting those persons we have already verified to vouch for others, to working with other trusted third parties to verify information. These research methods are specific yet vague by design, as we do not wish to put anybody's livelihood or reputation at risk. Yet, knowing how to weed out disinformation is key to understanding the bigger picture when reading the news — and it is no help to anyone when hoaxers muddy the waters.

This page is a work in progress. Our list is by no means complete, and we will revise and update it as we verify more accounts. We would also like to emphasize that absence from this list doesn't necessarily mean that accounts should not be trusted, simply that we have not yet been able to verify them.

In the event that we should find that someone is a deliberate hoaxer with malicious intent, or is personally profiting from a purported #AltFam or #AltGov association, we will note that on this page as well.

Here is our list of trusted accounts, in (more or less) alphabetical order.

Editor's Note: Snopes staff did their best to verify many of the Twitter accounts in question at the time this story was published, but we are unable to keep this verification up to date. Therefore, the information in this post may be outdated.

Brooke Binkowski is a former editor for Snopes.

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