Halfway across the world from McDonald’s Oak Brook, Ill. headquarters came a cry for help on a McDonald’s-branded Twitter account.
McDonald's Hong Kong's timeline is a bit odd. pic.twitter.com/zLC3SwUSLB
— Tom McLaughlin (@_TomMcLaughlin) July 29, 2017
“please kill me i wish to die,” tweeted @Mc_DonaldsHK, a McDonald’s Hong Kong account that had, until that point, been tweeting corporate pablum about the McDonald’s Signature Collection of sandwiches, and limited-time-only apple pie. The tweets that followed were no less disturbing.
“where is my son they took my son.”
“I want to quit. she left me.”
As the tweets were shared over the weekend, people began to sound the alarm. What was going on in McDonald’s Hong Kong’s offices? Was their social media manager in danger? Who took the anonymous tweeter’s son?
By the end of the weekend, the mystery had been unraveled. There was no suicidal employee, no son. In fact, there wasn’t even a McDonald’s Hong Kong Twitter account, a fact that seemed to fool the company, whose main Twitter account had tagged the @Mc_DonaldsHK account in previous tweets.
The hoax was months in the making. The @Mc_DonaldsHK account was created in October 2016, and seemed to be a normal corporate account for months. The company’s @McDonaldsCorp account would even tag it in customer service tweets, as Mashable and Gizmodo pointed out. Nothing seemed amiss in May, when McDonald’s tagged the Hong Kong account in a tweet about its new cheesecake. But then the account responded on July 24: “this freakin out about cheesecake while kids out here McDying. relax.”
And then it returned to normal for a little while, until the truly odd tweets began. They were still interspersed between “Minions” promotions and a breakfast egg pasta (McDonald’s locations around the world have different menus), as if the employee in distress was still valiantly trying to do his or her job in the midst of an extreme personal crisis.
People were very concerned.
McDonald's Hong Kong please be okay
— Big Kahina Burger (@your_joeliness) July 28, 2017
And many of them were cynical, too.
Viral marketing there from McDonalds Hong Kong, every fourth tweet from a worker trapped inside! Hoping it's a gimmick…
— Jerry Maine (@JerryLMaine) July 29, 2017
People suspected that the McDonald’s Hong Kong account had been hacked. A McDonald’s account was hacked in March, and sent out anti-Trump tweets, pinning the tweet “@realDonaldTrump You are actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have @BarackObama back, also you have tiny hands.” The president, for what it’s worth, is a big fan of McDonald’s. The brand was able to secure its account and delete the tweets.
But in the case of @Mc_DonaldsHK, McDonald’s confirmed that the account was never theirs to begin with.
“The Twitter account @Mc_DonaldsHK is not a McDonald’s account and we have reported it to Twitter,” a McDonald’s spokesman told The Post in an email. The account, sensing trouble, changed its handle to @NotMcDonaldsHK, and shortly thereafter, was suspended by Twitter. The person behind it has not yet come forward.
That’s not the end of the story for McDonald’s Hong Kong. Another account that goes by @McDonaldsHongK is keeping the mystery alive.
OK I WANT TO LEAVE.
— McDonald's Hong Kong (@McDonaldsHongK) July 31, 2017
Another parody account pretending to be @Mc_DonaldsHK’s wife has also sprung up, with tweets that we can’t really embed on the website of a family newspaper. And other fake regional McDonald’s accounts are springing up, too: @McDonaldsKabul, for example.
Let this be a lesson to brands: Snap up all possible Twitter handles with your name — or someone else will.
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