A number of controversial tweets about the Wits SRC (Student Representatives Council) elections were sent from the Voice of Wits (VoW FM) twitter account earlier today. Mike Smurthwaite, VoW station manager, confirmed that the twitter account of the station had been hacked and the tweets were not official VoW FM tweets.
Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, Smurthwaite said his team noticed something strange when the morning crew tried to log on to the station’s Twitter account, only to find the password was not working.
The crew then tried to recover the password by using the ‘lost password’ feature on Twitter which would send an email to the registered account.
According to Smurthwaite, VoW then discovered they could not access their email as the account has been in maintenance mode since this morning.
“I didn’t see any notification that it was going to happen. It just happened to have coincided at the point these guys took control of our account. They said they’ll send us a notification when it’s back up and that notification hasn’t been sent,”, said Smurthwaite.
The alleged hacker tweeted SRC elections related tweets and retweeted other student organisations.
VoW had not tweeted or retweeted anything since the morning, Smurthwaite said.
“All of those retweets and tweets are done by someone or a group of people acting with their own agenda,” he said.
VoW FM has lodged a complaint with the Student Development and Leadership Unit (SDLU) to pass on to the election officer to investigate the matter and assure the campus community that the tweets and retweets from the station’s account do not represent the views of VoW.
“It looks like we are supporting a particular entity and as an organisation we are politically neutral, we provide a platform for people to debate and we leave it up to people to decide which stories they believe or who they want to support or what the facts are,” said Smurthwaite.
Smurthwaite believes there is a possibility the hacker knows someone who works at the station, that an employee was bribed or that a former employee who was “pissed off” with the organisation saw it as an “opportunity because now they have political ambitions.
“We can however say for a fact that no one was doing it here at the station because you can see exactly what people are doing at what machines and we track user activity. So we can see that it wasn’t happening here, which means that this person was using it from another location,” Smurthwaite said.
Around 6pm this evening, VoW managed to recover access to the Twitter profile but declined to delete the earlier tweets until an investigation is completed.