High-profile Twitter accounts hacked over Turkey-Holland spat

Thursday, March 16, 2017
High-profile Twitter accounts hacked over Turkey-Holland spat
People stand in front of a Twitter logo in a stock photo, Jan. 5, 2016.

Hundreds of Twitter accounts were hacked early Wednesday morning as part of an apparent pro-Turkey social media operation that was used to spread messages deriding the German and Dutch governments in Turkish, according to statements from owners of several of the accounts and Twitter.

The Associated Press reported the number of hacked accounts was well into the hundreds.

The attackers used the hashtags #Nazialmanya or #Nazihollanda and broke into the accounts of several high profile users including CEOs, publishers, government agencies, and politicians.

Many of the hacked accounts were vandalized with images of swastikas and had their cover and profile photos changed.

Some of the accounts that fell victim to the hackers included Forbes, Amnesty International, UNICEF USA, Nike Spain, Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci, the European Parliament and the Atlanta Police Department.

A Twitter spokesperson responded to a request for comment by ABC News by forwarding a statement that noted that the issue was created by a "third party app" and that the company had already removed its permissions.

"We are aware of an issue affecting a number of account holders. Our teams worked at pace and took direct action. We quickly located the source which was limited to a third party app. We removed its permissions immediately. No additional accounts are impacted," the statement said.

A press officer for Amnesty USA confirmed to ABC News that the @amnesty account had been breached and that the unidentified hackers appeared to have targeted a third-party Twitter analytics service called Twitter Counter.

In a series of tweets, Twitter Counter confirmed that its service had been hacked and that its application had been blocked.

In an article posted to its website today, Forbes described how its Twitter account had been vandalized.

"Forbes' had its Twitter profile image changed to a Turkish flag, while tweets were published containing a video of president Recep Erdogan giving a speech at the World Economic Forum, and the hashtags "NaziGermany" and "NaziHolland," indicating the hackers were highlighting an ongoing feud between Erdogan and EU nations," the article stated.

The hackers have not been identified and it is not known if they have any ties to the Turkish government.

A rhetorical battle has been brewing between Turkey and the Dutch and German governments in recent weeks.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has accused those governments of using Nazi tactics and called the government of the Netherlands "Nazi remnants" after permission was withdrawn for his Foreign Minister to land there.

Merkel, Germany's Chancellor, rejected Erdogan's claims and said that the Turkish president was guilty of "[trivializing] suffering."

"These comparisons are completely misguided. They trivialize the suffering. Particularly in the Netherlands that endured so much agony through the National Socialists, it's just completely unacceptable. That's why the Netherlands can count on my complete support and solidarity on this," Merkel said earlier this month.

The Dutch vote today in a parliamentary election that is seen as a test of anti-immigrant and populist sentiment.

Lawmaker Geert Wilders, an anti-Islamic right wing populist, appears to be running a close race against incumbent Mark Rutte in the ballot for Prime Minister.

"The genie will not go back into the bottle. People feel misrepresented," Wilders said, regarding the growth of right-wing populism throughout the West.

"Despite what the elite wants, politicians are getting strong who have a totally different concept of what the people want them to do."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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