#MTVHack Is Actually A Publicity Stunt

Evidence suggests that the MTV and BET Twitter accounts have not been hacked after all.

1. At 3:04 p.m., MTV Marketing Director Annie Schoening tweeted:

Everyone watch @mtv right now… #MTVHACK— Annie Schoening

2. In a tweet that has since been deleted, BET “social media pugilist” JP Lespinasse wrote:

RT @djtakefive: ‘bout to have some fun on social w/ @mtv + @bet s/o to @kionsanders cc : @adamostrow— Ellie Hall

3. Four minutes later, the MTV Twitter account was “hacked”:


4. Seconds later, the BET Twitter account followed suit:

We’re bringing JERSEY SHORE back!!! #MTVhack— BET hacked!!!

5. As the tweets from the network marketing managers began to circulate, Twitter users began to mock the two TV channels. So far, Denny’s has delivered the sickest burn:

OMG we hacked ourselves because it’s the cool thing to do! http://t.co/RNJ7REen— Denny’s

6. MTV tried a similar tactic 14 years ago to promote the 1998 Music Video Awards. It didn’t work very well then either. (h/t: Jamie Gibbs)

A CNET story dated Sept. 9, 1998 reports:

When Netizens craving music industry skinny visited MTV Online last week, they were not greeted with the standard navigation menu, but instead with a crudely scribbled message: “JF was here.”

Immediately, many assumed what appeared to be the obvious: MTV Online was hacked. The page, after all, had all the hallmarks of a typical hack—the MTV home page was darkened, the “hacker” message was prominently featured, and a small link to MTV’s actual page was included at the bottom.

Furthermore, the MTV Online logo on the upper right-hand side of the home page’s screen was defaced and an actual MTV disclaimer stated that MTV was “sorry for the inconvenience” and “working on legally clearing this off the site.”

But despite appearances, there was no hack. MTV itself changed the page as part of an elaborate campaign to promote an online fictional character named “Johnny Fame,” who is set to become MTV Online’s “roving reporter” during tomorrow night’s MTV Music Video Awards.The confusion by Web users was further compounded by the name MTV chose to use for its publicity stunt: While Johnny Fame might sound like a fairly benign name, his initials, which MTV used to “deface” its own page, is also the moniker for a member of an international group of young hackers called Milw0rm.

CNET / Via news.cnet.com

7. UPDATE: MTV has tweeted an apology of sorts.

We totally Catfish-ed you guys. Thanks for playing! <3 you, @BET. ;)

— MTV (@MTV)

We totally Catfish-ed you guys. Thanks for playing! <3 you, @BET. ;)— MTV

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Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 6055 A264 DADD AADC 347E 5986 547C C11C DD7D 176A.
Contact Ellie Hall at ellie.hall@buzzfeed.com.
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