Slackers or Hackers? MTV Fakes a Hacker, but Being Hacked Is No Laughing Matter

Posted on February 20th 2013

Slackers or Hackers? MTV Fakes a Hacker, but Being Hacked Is No Laughing Matter

twitter hacked mtv hacked imageHacking: It happens, and it’s part of the risk you take when you sign up for that first social media account as a business. If you are high-profile enough, there’s a chance that your accounts could be taken over by outside users, or sabotaged by disgruntled employees. Burger King was the latest example of this, with their Twitter account being taken over for 90+ minutes by malicious outside users.

And don’t forget about the HMV fiasco just a few weeks ago, where an employee with access to the main Twitter account live-tweeted the firing of several communications people. While the tweets have been removed and HMV issued an official apology, the damage was done – and all because the right person had the passwords to the right accounts to make a splash. Which, according to Poppy Rose, was exactly what she was trying to do.

In just the last month, these two companies felt the very real consequences of not having the right social media policies in place to either prevent or quickly deal with the catastrophe. And no, a social media disaster is not likely to bring down an entire company on its own, but who would want to look foolish on a global platform? Let’s also not forget that the Internet is forever. Once something has been posted, especially from a high-profile account, it’s likely to have been screen-captured or saved by a user before anyone can remove the offending post.

To put this in more concrete terms, imagine a person walking into your physical store or place of work, when it’s at its peak performance hour. You don’t know this person, and have not yet noticed them in the store. All of the sudden, they then start screaming about how much your company stinks, and bad-mouthing your products or services to anyone standing in earshot! This is effectively what negative social media attention can do to a brand, should it be allowed to continue online.

Being hacked is no longer seen as a valid excuse for why your brand was posting offensive or inappropriate material, for two reasons: 1) It’s been cited in the past when the material was just a mistake or when the wrong users had access to the passwords (which is not the same as hacking), or 2) With social media having been around for years, it’s getting harder and harder for users to understand that companies may still not know how to use it properly. Therefore, even legitimate hacks can still be as brand-damaging as a person bad-mouthing your brand on- or offline.

So knowing all this, why then would MTV pretend to be hacked? Some are saying it was a promotional event planned in advance in an effort to promote their sister network BET (Black Entertainment Television). Was it merely coincidental timing, or was this deliberately set up to play off the sensationalism surrounding the Burger King hack? Others are even suggesting it’s possible that MTV was behind the recent hacks of Twitter accounts.

In any case, being hacked has real life consequences and is no joking matter.

Denny’s had a fairly clever and cutting response to MTV, and I’m inclined to take their side:

Denny's fake hack waffles pancakes

MTV, you know how to run successful social media campaigns, and have done so in the past! So why would you resort to something like a fake hacker?

In any case, make sure your corporate social media policy addresses what to do in the event that the account security is compromised. Being caught flat-footed and scrambling is never a good thing, no matter the industry or product. There are several great guides out there, including our own blog post titled: Developing a Social Media Policy: 7 Key Elements Every Social Media Policy Must Address.


Kylie Robertson

I write and manage digital and social content. Learning to run, slowly. Love wine, coffee, good friends and great food. Have money, will travel. Love all things internet-related, and will intinctively Tweet before thinking.

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Posted on February 21st 2013 at 1:53AM

"...Imagine a person walking into your physical store or place of work... All of the sudden, they start screaming about how much your company stinks, and bad-mouth your products or services to anyone standing in earshot!"

Or, in HMV's case, one of their own employees starts badmouthing the company and revealing intimate accounts about how incompetent the managers are! The HMV and Burger King cases are excellent examples of why social media assets need to be protected in a manner akin to corporations' other communication outlets; if they are simply handed over to interns and low-level employees, it is possible for those employees to go rogue as Poppy Rose did or neglect to show an appropriate amount of caution with where they log in.

Fascinating story. Thanks for sharing.

Posted on February 21st 2013 at 4:27PM

Thanks for your comment! I found what happened with HMV fascinating as well; it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. 

Posted on February 22nd 2013 at 5:35PM

Interesting indeed. 

When a respected high profile account of for instance a CEO with major influence (followers) gets hacked. And tweets are send out which cause a market riot/ stock surge. Not even talking about personal image damage. This is a massive threath. You can really damage a brand. With economical consequenses. How can you protect your build up brand/ company or image? 

Thank you for sharing Kylie Robertson.