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GOVERNMENT AGENCIES INCLUDING USDA, EPA INSTRUCTED TO LIMIT THEIR PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS
Washington Post reports:

Trump administration officials instructed employees at multiple agencies in recent days to cease communicating with the public through news releases, official social media accounts and correspondence, raising concerns that federal employees will be able to convey only information that supports the new president's agenda.

The new limits on public communications appear to be targeting agencies that are charged with overseeing environmental and scientific policy, prompting criticism from officials within the agencies and from outside groups focused on climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Agriculture and Interior departments now have formal policies restricting what they should convey to the public about their work.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he and his colleague were "looking into" whether the administration had changed the way many agencies share information publicly.

"I don't think it's any surprise that when there's an administration turnover that we're going to review the policies," Spicer said, "but with respect to the question you're asking, I don't have information at this time."

Many new administrations - including former president Barack Obama's - have moved quickly to take control of the U.S. government's public relations machinery and centralize decision-making upon taking office. But the sweeping nature of some of the new controls is unusual, and the fact that they come as departments have been communicating through an array of digital platforms has made the changes particularly visible.

The moves also underscore the kind of skirmishing that could continue to take place between incoming political appointees and civil service employees.

At the EPA, for example, communications staff received a memo instructing them that "no social media will be going out" and "a digital strategist will be coming on board" to oversee it. It added, "Incoming media requests will carefully screened."

According to a former agency official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, members of Trump's EPA landing team spent significant time asking about who controlled the department's communications levers, especially regarding social media.

EPA's numerous social media accounts appear to have fallen silent since Trump's inauguration, with the lone exception of the agency's Office of Water, which sent out a handful of tweets over the weekend, including a link to what local communities are doing to protect their waterways and advice on using an app to help people figure out whether their local waterway is polluted.

"The EPA fully intends to continue to provide information to the public," the agency said in a statement Tuesday, in response to questions about the media blackout. "A fresh look at public affairs and communications processes is common practice for any new Administration, and a short pause in activities allows for this assessment."


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