Congressman Hoyer’s Twitter account hacked or impersonated during State of the Union?

Take a look at the screenshot below; either Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer was blowing off some serious steam with a string of profanity-laden tweets during last night’s State of the Union address, or the Democratic Whip has had one of his Twitter IDs, @LeaderHoyer, hacked or otherwise compromised.
There was a problem connecting to Twitter.

There was a problem connecting to Twitter. There was a problem connecting to Twitter.

Twitter’s government liaison Adam Sharp has been made aware of the potential breach and tweeted that the firm is looking into what’s going on the firm has taken down the @LeaderHoyer ID.

The congressman’s website, Hoyer.House.Gov, prominently listed and linked to the @LeaderHoyer ID on it’s home page. A second Twitter ID for Congresman Hoyer, @WhipHoyer, seems to be unaffected.

A call to the congressman’s Washington, D.C. office was unanswered this evening to get to the bottom of the issue, and unfortunately Twitter doesn’t have either @LeaderHoyer or @WhipHoyer listed as a Verified account . As I’ve harped on before, Twitter really needs to roll out a better way to consistently verify IDs for government agencies and high-ranking officials.

The discrepancy was first noted in a tweet by Politico reporter Ben Smith.

Hmm. The Twitter account linked on Steny Hoyer's House page is definitely not his...
Ben Smith

UPDATE 1:10 am

It appears Congressman Hoyer’s office is at least aware of the issue, as the Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media links have been removed from his Hoyer.House.Gov website. The image below shows what the site’s homepage previously looked like. It will be interesting to see if this was an issue where the website was linking to a bogus Twitter ID in error, or if the Twitter ID of @LeaderHoyer is legitimate, but compromised.

Update 1:35 am
Twitter reports that @WhipHHoyer is what they have as a verified account.

Update 8 am

Daniel Kennedy speculates at ZDNet that @LeaderHoyer (which was a correct account first created in February 2009 according to GovTwit stats) was recently changed to @WhipHoyer when the 112th Congress began. Instead of maintaining the old ID, it may have simply become available for anyone to snatch up (and indeed, before taken down, the “new” @LeaderHoyer ID showed a creation date of January 14, 2011).

Compounding the error, the congressman’s web team apparently neglected to update the Twitter link pointing to the newly named account. Daniel makes a couple of excellent points toward the end of his piece:

The whole exercise is a lesson in carefully planning and coordinating social media changes, as even the prankster not so subtly expressed in a tweet: “This is what happens when political offices pay for high-priced, money-sucking ‘social media’ firms that have no clue what they are doing.” If the person perpetuating the hoax had posted tweets that were less ludicrous, the updates may have passed for those of the congressman for a while. For a politician, controlling communications with constituents is paramount.

But Twitter might consider a change here as well. Obviously accounts that are verified, but change names making what was once a verified account name available during user registration, are more of a target for people wishing to impersonate a well known person. Perhaps Twitter should lock those original names after a name change for a longer period of time, since they went through the Twitter verification program.

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  • Paul Bove

    Steve: Love this story. While the comments in the hacked account were mildly amusing, this really does show the importance of controlling your message. Whether a corporation, government agency, or Congressman, if you’re not keeping an eye on your online presence, somebody else is. Thanks for the great screen grabs and chronology. I will be using this as a lesson learned at OPM.


  • Yossi Gestetner

    Yeah. Funny story. The tweets itself are funny to the extant that the prakster tells people what is going on in Hoyer’s head, at least according to the prakster.

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