Nope, World War III has not started, despite what you may have read in the news. It was actually a hoax. Hackers infiltrated the Twitter accounts for UPI and the New York Post, and sent out messages saying that China and the U.S. were already locked in a naval battle.
Identical tweets on the both the news sites’ feed reported news from the fictional front-lines of the war, “U.S. Joint Chief Of Staff: USS George Washington Damaged, U.S. Navy now engaged in active combat against Chinese vessels in South China sea.”
The New York Post reclaimed its Twitter account soon afterward, releasing this explanatory tweet.
Our Twitter account was briefly hacked and we are investigating.
— New York Post (@nypost) January 16, 2015
As for UPI, the farce continued. Another tweet quoted Pope Francis saying “World War III has begun.” Another was about Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Just in: Xi Jinping: Obama ‘condemned’ for Asia pivot. ‘has forced China to protect its interests through military means.'”
Of course, all of these tweets about World War III were taken down once the sites realized that they’d been hacked. According to Time Magazine, the U.S. Navy confirmed that the USS George Washington was in port, not engaged in a war, just to lay any remaining rumors to rest.
CBS News also did their homework, calling a spokesman for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to confirm that World War III had, in fact, not started.
Others, like the Edmonton Sun, ran with the story on their own Twitter account. Showing just how much a prankster can achieve with a news outlet’s Twitter password. Other savvy Twitter users caught on quick and began posting their own tweets.
Little known fact; it’s actually the Pope’s duty to announce the commencement of World War 3, check the job description. — Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) January 16, 2015
How the hell does somebody hack top news stations accounts on Twitter and make tweets about there being a World War 3?!
— ☈ᎥᎻᏃᎬᎪᏞᎥᏌᎦ ⚓️ (@BlameRandy) January 16, 2015
It did seem strange that Pope Francis didn’t have something more to say about the world-wide conflict.
In other fake news, the hackers announced that the U.S. dollar would be pegged to the Swiss Franc, and the Federal Reserve will start a banking holiday on January 23… thanks Obama.
The hacking certainly started some worries, but its good to know that these modern-day Orson Welles-like pranksters couldn’t go too far. World War III is no joking matter; that’s what the Pope should have said.
[Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons]