A Weird, Gwen Ifill-Related Twitter Mystery is Happening Right Now (Update: Solved!)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - 02:08 PM

At 2:01 this afternoon, a bunch of journalism-related Twitter accounts suddenly started tweeting this cryptic message: "f gwenifill." If you search twitter for the phrase, you see that it's very widespread, and that no one really seems to know what's going on. 

It's a weird mystery, and I'm not sure what the Occam's Razor explanation is. I don't know if it's a very specific kind of bug or a very specific kind of hack. Also, it's possible that all these outlets are using the same Twitter client, and if so, it could mean that whatever's gone wrong has gone wrong with the client, rather than Twitter itself.

For now, I will can the baseless speculation and I'll update here once someone figures this out. 

UPDATE: 2:22PM. OK, so this is maybe solved. Kate Gardiner, who is a former colleague of ours at WNYC, says that her Tweetdeck account was hacked. Tweetdeck's a third-party client that lets you manage multiple twitter accounts. So if Gardiner has access to a TON of Twitter accounts for various news outlets, someone could have gotten into her account and simultaneously tweeted the message from all of them.

If it seems weird that Gardiner would have access to all these accounts, the explanation is that she's consulted on digital strategy at a bunch of places. I guess the takeaway is that institutions should update their passwords every once in awhile. 

UPDATE: 2:45PM. What is your tolerance, dear reader, for one more update about a Twitter snafu story? If it hasn't waned, a few more things.

One is that it's not clear that this was a hack, actually. Gardiner said that it was initially. But Will Oremus, of Slate's Future Tense blog, asked about it, and it seems more probable that it's mostly just user error. If you want more on that, that's here

Also, it turns out a couple WNYC accounts also got hit. Our dear friends at Soundcheck and Q2. 

Lastly, it's not even clear that changing passwords on a Twitter account would immediately revoke a user's access to that account if the user had permissions through an outside client like Tweetdeck. So the takeaway from all this might actually just be that when you leave a company, you should make sure to delete their old accounts from whatever device you use. 


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Comments [5]

Jennifer Shelton from Kansas

On the Media is my favorite source for news. Reporters covering reporters is critical in an age where local coverage equals pedestrians with a camera. Gwen Ifill is a voice I depend on and trust. I don't like the hoax either way.

Mar. 29 2014 12:30 AM
Will Caxton from White Snow Country

Seems to me one of the lessons is that if you want to TEST something, test with a benign message like "This is a test" or "bloppity-bloo". Using a test message that's an aggressive insult directed at a journalist who happens to be a Black woman might lead people to think you're racist or sexist or rude or disrespectful or just plain stupid.

Jan. 31 2014 10:45 AM
Curious from Off the top of my head

Interesting. I've noticed what seems like the same writing style in tweets authored by different accounts, perhaps this explains it.

Jan. 15 2014 02:25 PM

UPDATE: got it. :)

Jan. 14 2014 03:07 PM

Maybe it's my age but this blog is reading like an excerpt from Gravity's Rainbow. Need to reread.

Jan. 14 2014 03:06 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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