The U.S. government shutdown has put 800,000 federal employees and contractors temporarily out of work. While “essential” personnel still have to report for duty, furloughed workers are actually legal forbidden to perform job-related tasks until the government can pay them again.
According to the Anti-deficiency Act, passed in 1884, workers who get any official business done during the shutdown could face fines or imprisonment. That means there’s no one to run the .gov websites that provide the public with online services, such as the FTC or DOJ, which have been indefinitely suspended.
HealthCare.gov wasn’t suspended, but it experienced its own uptime issues. During the first day of “Obamacare” enrollment, millions of Americans flooded the website, repeatedly causing it to crash.
We're working to fix these issues as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience (2/2)— HealthCare.gov (@HealthCareGov) October 1, 2013
Many departments in the U.S. government rely heavily on social media for direct communication with the public. Some of them made announcements to the public regarding their services being suspended. Federal employees in some departments were reportedly instructed to refrain from checking their emails or even their phones until the shutdown ends.
http://t.co/53PqVUaa9s is taking a (hopefully short) break from Twitter. Thanks for understanding, and we hope to tweet more resources soon!— Disability.gov (@Disabilitygov) October 1, 2013
We’ve signed off for the shutdown. In a public health emergency, CDC can call back responders to keep us safe and healthy.— CDC Emergency (@CDCemergency) October 2, 2013
We’re sorry, but we will not be tweeting or responding to @ replies during the government shutdown. We’ll be back as soon as possible!
— US Dept of Education (@usedgov) October 1, 2013
Unfortunately, due to government shutdown we will not be tweeting or responding to @ replies. We'll be back as soon as possible! #healthdata— US HealthData Gov (@HealthDataGov) October 1, 2013
We're sorry, but we will not be tweeting or responding to @ replies during the government shutdown. We'll be back as soon as possible!— AIDS.gov (@AIDSgov) October 1, 2013
Due to the shutdown, will not be posting new updates or responding to Qs until normal operations resume. Thank you for understanding.— HUDgov (@HUDgov) October 1, 2013
Other government Twitter accounts, such as @FluGov and @womenshealth, have either stopped tweeting or replaced their bios with messages informing the public that they’ll return soon. Even Homeland Security hasn’t tweeted since last Friday, when they encouraged the public to follow their 7 other accounts:
The U.S. government shutdown hasn’t affected all official accounts equally, however. Two of the White House’s Regional Communications Directors shut down:
But other White House staff have remained online and continue to discuss shutdown and healthcare business:
According to reports, 2 House R votes away from a majority to re-open the government. Will Speaker Boehner allow the House to work its will?
— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) October 2, 2013
Americans to GOP ---> Knock it off & move on: Majority believe GOP should drop demands to sabotage #Obamacare & raise debt limit in CNN poll
— Jordan Burke (@Jordan44) October 2, 2013
— Tara McGuinness (@HealthCareTara) October 2, 2013
— Jay Carney (EOP) (@PressSec) October 2, 2013
The Department of Defense, was business as usual, tweeting about matters unrelated to the shutdown—military personnel continue to work and get paid thanks to a bill signed by President Obama. Various other government accounts have continued tweeting throughout the shutdown as well.
— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) October 2, 2013
— consumerfinance.gov (@CFPB) October 2, 2013
— @NSCPress (@NSCPress) October 2, 2013
#SecDef in Seoul at Change of Command for US Forces Korea. Reaffirms strength of the alliance, shared resolve to fight tonight if necessary.
— George Little (@PentagonPresSec) October 2, 2013
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) October 2, 2013
Here’s Pres Obama signing our bill to pay the troops: http://t.co/sRWat1GrUa But he says he’ll veto a bill funding veterans services?
— Speaker John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) October 2, 2013
Many of the employees responsible for keeping up the U.S. government’s appearance online may be away from their desks and out of a paycheck, but at least some local businesses have stepped forward to help feed them and get them drunk.
Illustration by Jay Hathaway