Federal Govt’s Rogue Tweeters Could be Prosecuted as Hackers


An online campaign that saw a number of unauthorized tweets on climate change with opinions that are inconsistent with Trump’s campaign statements and policies on climate change could see unauthorized tweeters prosecuted.

As reported by the Associated Press, those tweets were deleted from official agency accounts. However, at least 40 new accounts showed up on Twitter as unofficial “alternative” accounts for federal agencies. Some of these accounts were created by federal workers using their work email addresses, giving away their real identities. It is yet unknown as to how many of these ‘unofficial’ accounts were set up by federal officials.

According to legal experts, the Justice Department could prosecute these rogue tweeters under federal hacking laws, the publication reports.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer stated:

An unauthorized user had an old password in the San Francisco office, went in and started retweeting inappropriate things that were in violation of their policy.

The case of at least one former employee who had access to passwords for agency accounts was under the scanner. One of the tweets concludes that “More redwoods would mean less climate change” from the Redwood National and State Parks, which is still active at the time of publishing. According to the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, employees or former employees who publish unauthorized messages on official accounts could be prosecuted.

According to cybersecurity lawyer and former National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security official Steward Baker, employees who are authorized to use official agency Twitter accounts could still face legal charges for posting images they weren’t supposed to.

He added:

It wouldn’t surprise me if at this stage, a criminal investigation was opened and criminal tools were used to investigate this, even if at the end of the day they decided not to pursue criminal charges.

He further noted that federal courts, at least some of them, would examine the security measures in place with federal agencies’ social media accounts and brush aside cases where employees aren’t in clear violation of any rules.

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