During and after yesterday’s shooting at YouTube headquarters in California, many people turned to employees’ Twitter accounts for updated information.
But for a brief moment, one of the workers who was keeping the internet informed lost control of his account.
YouTube product engineer Vadim Lavrusik was among the first to tweet about the incident.
But shortly after he tweeted that he was safe, some more mysterious messages began to appear on Lavrusik’s account.
The URL in the “PLEASE HELP ME” tweet linked to a photo of YouTube gaming personality Keemstar. The “See new tweets” button also appeared above these messages, but disappeared when clicked.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted “We’re on it” when users reached out to him for help.
“We are… aware of attempts by some people to deceive others with misinformation around this tragedy,” Twitter said in a statement. “We are tracking this and are taking action on anything that violates our rules.”
The offending tweets were quickly deleted, but the question remained: How did this happen?
It turns out that unidentified hackers had gained access to Lavrusik’s account through Flipboard, a third-party news aggregator that collects content from social media accounts and RSS feeds.
Apparently Lavrusik had linked his Flipboard account to his Twitter account. Hackers downloaded the Keemstar photo from Flipboard, infiltrated Lavrusik’s Twitter and shared the picture.
Dorsey and the rest of Twitter rejoiced when Lavrusik got his account back last night.
A Flipboard representative said the site is investigating the incident.
After the hack, it looked like Lavrusik might even get in trouble for his accurate tweets. Several YouTube employees told The Daily Beast that the company wouldn’t allow them to talk to media about the shooting—all requests had to go through Google PR (Google owns YouTube).
But soon after the story was posted, YouTube clarified that employees could speak freely to the press.