Radio host and Fox News fixture Sean Hannity had his Twitter account hacked over the weekend, leading it to be temporarily suspended by the service. His fans, however, suspected something far more sinister: That their hero had been banned at the behest of the secretive and all-powerful "Deep State."
Their conclusions were based in part on the fact that Hannity's account had posted a junk tweet during the time it was compromised which read "Form Submission 1649 | #Hannity."
With all the conspiracy theories that Hannity has been hyping lately, it was no surprise that the nonsensical tweet and his sudden suspension almost immediately became a hot topic among fans of "The Storm" conspiracy theory. None of them seem to have considered that publicly censoring a political commentator with a nationally syndicated radio show and a nightly cable news program without explanation would go unnoticed.
Jerome Corsi, a fringe journalist known for promoting the "birther" conspiracy theory, told his Twitter followers what was going on:
Even WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was once a leftist but has since morphed into a Fox News fanboy, expressed his concern:
Despite the fervid imaginations of his fans, Hannity's account access was soon restored. In a public statement, Twitter confirmed that Hannity had been hacked.
“While we normally do not discuss individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons, we have permission from the account owner to confirm that account was briefly compromised. We are working with the owner to restore access,” the company said in a statement.
Hannity’s access was soon back to normal. He did not bother to tell fans what had happened, however.
Hannity is one of several cable news pundits who have had their Twitter accounts compromised in recent weeks. Security research company McAfee disclosed last week that the hackings appear to be the work of a private Turkish group calling itself Ayyildiz Tim, which has been using compromised accounts for their own propaganda purposes.
“Once the accounts were compromised, the attackers direct-messaged the account contacts with propaganda for their cause or with a link to convince them to click on a phishing site that would harvest the Twitter credentials of the victim,” Ayyildiz Tim members Christiaan Beek and Raj Samani wrote in a blog post.
According to BuzzFeed, both liberal and conservative American commentators have been targeted, including former Fox anchor Greta Van Susteren, and Eric Bolling, CNN host Brian Stelter, New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi, and NBC reporter Ken Dilanian.
Once compromised, several of the hacked accounts have posted images purporting to show screen captures of direct messages sent and received from President Donald Trump.