Are you up to speed with the mess the Tories made out of trying to use social media yesterday? They launched a website trying to criticise Gordon Brown for something or other. Part of the site included a twitter feed so that any twitter user using the hashtag #cashgordon could get their words on the site. Users quickly found out that these were not screened before going live, which meant you could get anti-Tory sentiment onto the Tory website. And then the more technically minded twitterati discovered that if you included some code in your tweet, you could make the Tory website do some unexpected things.
All this is covered in Mark Pack’s post here yesterday, Chris Keating’s post on his own blog and also this rather funny image on Flickr.
So far, so silly. Lessons, I’m sure, have been learned about the wisdom of setting up sites that invite user participation but don’t take the time to think through just what that participation could include.
But as t’Voice’s old friend Alix alerted us to in the comments yesterday, there’s a slightly more sinister side to the story too. Twitter user @jimmysparkle posted to say the Conservatives had phoned his workplace, alleged that he hacked their site, and threatened to sue.
conservative party phoned my workplace claiming they may sue me for supposedly hacking their website… tweeting != hacking. lol #cashgordon
Apparently the woman who phoned was a Laura Cooper, no idea if she was genuine. Claimed I hacked their site. Fail fail fail #cashgordon
This was enough to pique the interest of Sky journalist @niallpaterson who started digging. Before Paterson got involved, Twitter had unearthed that the name of the woman who phoned Jimmy Sparkle’s office sounded suspiciously like the name of the girlfriend of Samuel Coates, one of the Conservative web workers responsible for the site in the first place.
Paterson has clearly got some sort of denial out of CCHQ, because he was able to tweet the following:
But even in the cab home, i’m working – Tories confirm tonight that Lua Cooper DID contact @jimmysparkle but is not a member of staff
Ms Cooper is a “friend” of party worker, her actions were neither authorised nor condoned by CCHQ. She “felt strongly” abt hijacking of site
How very strange. The story so far seems to be: Tory worker sets up weak site. Weak site becomes magnet for vulnerability exploits. Tory worker’s girlfriend gets upset and phones twitter user’s boss to allege hacking. CCHQ hang her out to dry.
It will be worth keeping an eye on how this story develops during the day.
UPDATE: A correction – although the person making the call was originally identified as Laura Cooper, it turns out her name is actually Lua Cooper.