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Summary:

Burger King got a nasty social media surprise on the President’s Day holiday when someone took over its Twitter account and announced the company had been sold to its rival.

Screen shot of Burger King hack

Even by the standards of social media fiascos, this one’s a doozy. On Monday, Burger King’s official Twitter feed announced the chain had been sold to its rival and began posting pro-McDonald’s messages and tales of employee drug use.

The strange Twitter activity took place after hackers apparently took control of Burger King’s account and replaced its name and image with the McDonald’s logo. Here is a screenshot of what followers of @burgerking saw on Monday:

Screen shot of burger king hack

The blue checkmark beside the @burgerking name indicate that this is indeed Burger King’s official Twitter account. Other tweets included:

It’s unclear who is behind  the mischief but the tweets’ references to “lulz’ and “@youranonnews” suggest the hacker collective Anonymous is involved.

Meanwhile, regular Twitter users are having a merry time speculating on how this may have happened:

It’s accepted as common wisdom for big brands to have an active presence on social media but this incident shows how things can go very wrong. Previous Twitter disasters involve McDonald’s buying a sponsored hashtag to promote “McDStories” only to see users tell tales of gross food and alleged animal cruelty.

As of early Monday afternoon Eastern Time, the Burger King account was still under control of the hackers.

Update: At 1:15 ET, Twitter said the account had been suspended. As Frank Reed notes in the comments below, the incident may not be all bad it’s given Burger King more publicity than it’s had in a long time. And, as a hacker account notes:

As for McDonald’s, the company offered this response:

  1. Probably gives BK more exposure than they have had in a long time. Only social media insiders will see this as a ‘disaster’.

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    1. Good point, Frank! It’s easy to forget most people are not on Twitter. You’re right that this may just amount to a bit of free publicity for Burger King

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      1. All this talk has me thinking about a Whopper for the first time in a long time!

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    2. Well said Frank. This is the latest example of a non-event that I’m using as a way of siphoning off the so-called social media experts who actually haven’t got a clue what they’re talking about.

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  2. Why is GigaOm allowing ads in the comment space?

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  3. Raleigh Gerber Monday, February 18, 2013

    Yeah, my first thought was that they probably hacked into their own account for the PR!

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  4. Reblogged this on Rational Arrogance and commented:
    “The strange Twitter activity took place after hackers apparently took control of Burger King’s account and replaced its name and image with the McDonald’s logo.”

    I guess that’s what we call a “MacHack”….

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  5. Reblogged this on The Central Scrutinizer and commented:
    Where do you start with this one? Looks like someone and their boss (and their boss) are looking for a job.

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  6. Reblogged this on Insights from the Corner Cubicle and commented:
    This hurts…

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  7. Really enjoyed that article. Found it rather amusing too! ;)

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  8. What loser follows a fast food chain on Twitter? Or… who cares about this non-story?

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  9. Social Media is future of internet. Hacking the twitter shows importance and impact of social media.

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  10. I wish just one of these news stories would give a better explanation than just “got hacked.” How did the perps get control of the account? Did they brute force, just a luck guess, got control of the e-mail account that is backstopped, get the password from a phishing attack? Come on Gigaom, do more than the other big news outlets.

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