An alert went out Friday afternoon on NBC News’s Twitter feed that terrified some of the 128,000 people that follow the site’s social media updates. The feed claimed Ground Zero had been attacked. A flurry of tweets followed, each one claiming the news was not a joke , until finally, one appeared: “NBCNEWS hacked by the Script Kiddies!”
Going into a weekend, with heightened security in Washington and New York because of the upcoming anniversary of 9/11, the prank tweets seemed particularly shocking and cruel.
As more people use Twitter as an instant newswire, they have become accustomed to breaking news tweets from major media corporations, increasing the risk of misinformation being easily spread on the site. Fox News was hacked this summer, when someone took over the feed and posted false reports.
However, Twitter does have a self-correcting mechanism: a literal crowd control. Users who quickly realized the account had been hacked set out to spread the news, shaming the hackers in the process. “No words for how wrong that is,” wrote Tenn_ant from Edinburgh, Scotland.
Twitter and NBC News also quickly jumped into action. Ryan Osborn, the social media director at NBC News suspended the main account, while Twitter banned the hackers’s account.
Here’s some screengrabs of the false tweets: