Is any tweet an “essential” tweet? With the government shut down, that question will get an answer Tuesday as some accounts and federal websites are frozen due to the lapse in appropriations.
At the White House, an army of tweeters has been reduced to a squad, as only essential personnel — a small fraction of the usual — are allowed to tweet from their official accounts. And even those who are able are slowing down from their usual frenetic pace, as they are forced to pick up work for furloughed colleagues. This message greeted visitors to WhiteHouse.gov Tuesday morning:
Though nearly the entire Department of Defense is exempted from the shutdown, its website won’t be kept up to date. “Site updates are limited due to the government shutdown,” a banner on the site read shortly after midnight Tuesday.
In a cruel twist of fate, as a result of the government shutdown voters won’t be able to visit Capitol Hill and petition the government to end the shutdown. The Capitol is indefinitely closed to visitors, though the galleries overlooking both chambers will be open, and the official account of the Architect of the Capitol, known for tweeting information and photos about the complex, posted this Tuesday morning:
Due to a lapse in government funding, this account will not be active until further notice.—
U.S. Capitol (@uscapitol) October 01, 2013
Let us hope no asteroids are on a collision course with earth. @AsteroidWatch, a project of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that tweets about celestial objects passing near earth, also logged off when the government shutdown, like nearly the entire space agency. Just before its government funding ran dry, the account tweeted:
In the event of government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account. We sincerely hope to resume tweets soon.—
Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) October 01, 2013
In fact, nearly all of NASA, which turns 55 today (Happy Birthday?), is affected by the shutdown. Our valiant Mars Rover has been ordered along with the rest of the NASA staff to indefinitely halt its exploration (which must be some kind of great leap forward toward the singularity). And the account for NASA Astronauts even changed its Twitter bio to say, “Sorry, but we won’t be tweeting/responding to replies during the government shutdown. Be back as soon as possible! http://notice.USA.gov.”
It seems the National Security Agency, which has taken heat in recent weeks over revelations of misbehavior and controversy surrounding domestic surveillance, will be unaffected by the shutdown. If you happen to be dating an NSA employee, now might be a good time to keep take care what you say on the phone, since the Private and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which is tasked with “protecting civil liberties and privacy in the nation’s fight against terrorism” only has funding to October 4th, after which it will join the Mars Rover in early temporary retirement.