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Government shutdown sends National Park Service, NASA, other websites offline

The government shutdown has affected the online and social media presence of many major government agencies, meaning citizens may have problems finding ordinarily easy-to-access information.

By Contributor / October 1, 2013

Whitehouse.gov sends a clear message with its website shutdown error message.

Whitehouse.gov

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Even the Internet can’t escape political squabbles.

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After the government shutdown at midnight EST on Oct. 1, the World Wide Web became a little less accessible. Many major government agencies either went entirely offline or only offered static homepages, with disclaimers that information would not be updated. Social media use was suspended with final tweets and posts telling followers services would be suspended. Furloughed government workers won’t even be able to check their email to find out when they need to come back to work.

Reasons for web shutdowns vary from agency to agency, depending on how much funding was cut off and how much each department relies on their web presence to disseminate vital information. A memo sent out to agencies from the White House last week advised, "Given that websites represent the front-end of numerous back-end processing systems, agencies must determine whether the entire website can be shut down or components of the website will be shut down."

So what’s the scope of this Internet shutdown? If you’re trying to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, fill out the FAFSA, or get updates from the NASA Asteroid Watch, you’re out of luck.

Here is a round up of some major dot-gov website interruptions.

Library of Congress (LOC.gov)

The Library of Congress website will be totally offline during the government shutdown. Ordinarily, you would be able to use it to browse digital collections, look into copyright services, and access its law library. As of now, LOC.gov is totally offline, but beta.congress.gov and THOMAS.gov (the online databases for Congress’ activities), are online and available for use, so you can keep up with how Congress is attempting to sort out this massive shutdown.

National Park Service (NPS.gov)

Millions groaned with irony when Google changed its logo Oct. 1 to honor Yosemite National Park’s 123rd birthday, the same day Yosemite had to close its doors due to the government shutdown. Online, the National Park Service website is also shut down. Late morning on Oct. 1, NPS.gov showed an error message letting visitors know all National Park websites would not be functioning, though information would be available via the Department of the Interior (DOI.gov). @NatlParkService also tweeted: “Because of the federal gov’t shutdown this National Park Service Twitter feed is inactive. We’ll start tweeting again when we get back”.

NASA (NASA.gov)

NASA may have more of a presence in space than it does on Earth during the shutdown. NASA.gov is offline, most of NASA’s 18,000 employees are furloughed, with the exception of operations and personnel needed for the "safety and protection of life and property,” according to NASA’s shutdown plan. This has impacted the social media life of NASA as well, as all Twitter accounts have ceased activity. NASA Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) which warns the public of any hazardous space objects, stopped tweeting early Oct. 1, and @NASAVoyager2 tweeted late last night “Due to government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account. Farewell, humans. Sort it out yourselves.”

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