Government Social Media Feeds Will Go Dark During a Shutdown

Essential employees could post information to sites in the event of an emergency, officials say.

Most agency Twitter handles and other social media will go dark in the event of a government shutdown Tuesday morning, officials said on Monday.

There’s no official list of Twitter handles and Facebook pages that will cease posting, according to tweets by the General Services Administration’s @GovNewMedia Twitter handle, which reports on governmentwide social media topics.

“Unless an emergency, it should be reasonably expected that most accounts will cease engaging & posting, as with other services,” the agency said.

Most government social media accounts are run by communications staffers who are less likely to be exempted from forced furloughs that would accompany a shutdown. Some popular government accounts, such as Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s Twitter account, are run by employees deemed essential who would continue working during a shutdown.

Some essential employees also could run social media sites in case of an emergency.

The Veterans Affairs Department said in a fact sheet that it will intermittently update its Twitter and Facebook profiles during a shutdown.

Social media accounts will be just one digital casualty of a shutdown, along with many federal websites and non-essential IT systems.

The Education Department, which plans to furlough 90 percent of employees during the first week of a shutdown, will halt tweeting from its main handle, officials said on Monday.

The department will also stop tweeting from other handles, including one that answers questions about student aid, a popular topic during the first weeks of the school year. The impact to student aid itself will be minor during a shutdown, the department said.

The United States Geological Survey also confirmed it would cease tweeting during a shutdown barring a major emergency. Several other agencies didn’t respond to questions from Nextgov about their specific social media plans during a shutdown and the White House did not  respond to an email seeking information about social media plans.

Federal employees will experience their first extended shutdown since 1996 if the White House and Congress can’t reach an agreement to continue funding essential services. House Republicans want to tie funding to a delay in implementing President Obama’s healthcare reform law, a plan Senate Democrats and the White House have said they won’t agree to.