First they came for the Agriculture Department’s Instagram account, but we did not speak out because we follow the Interior Department.
On midnight Tuesday morning the U.S. government began shuttering its websites along with its Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, apparently inciting American outrage.
“An absolute disgrace,” said user @johnjw8 in a comment for Interior’s Instagram feed. “So depressing!” added @whatjordiesees. “Especially on the date of Yosemite’s anniversary :’(“
A survey of which U.S. government agency websites would be going dark and which would stay in operation during the shutdown reveals a strange mishmash. The comprehensive list, which includes information about whether government sites are up or down, and what, if any, notice they are giving to their visitors, is well worth visiting.
Posting updates is more work than, say, simply ceasing to maintain an account. And the excellent Tom Lee over at the Sunlight Foundation notes that the government has stipulated sites must be shut down regardless of whether doing so is more expensive than keeping them online. From the relevant Q&A section of the Office of Management and Budget’s memo:
What if the cost of shutting down a website exceeds the cost of maintaining services?
The determination of which services continue during an appropriations lapse is not affected by whether the costs of shutdown exceed the costs of maintaining services.
The question then becomes, why is the government bothering? Perhaps posting sad messages on social media is an important government tool for rallying citizens. In which case, perhaps we’re simply doing the government’s PR work for it with this roundup of the saddest shutdown messages from government Instagram accounts.