The official government-run Twitter account, U.K. Civil Service, was hacked on Sunday to respond to Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s press conference, in which he defended senior aide Dominic Cummings for allegedly breaking lockdown rules amid coronavirus. From the verified account, U.K. Civil Services appeared to call Johnson and Cummins, “Arrogant and Offensive,” and said, “Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?”
The tweet was posted about 20 minutes after Johnson’s presser on May 24, and even though the message criticizing the prime minister was only live for 10 minutes, it was liked nearly 34,000 times and garnered 30,000 retweets before being deleted. BBC Newsnight policy editor Lewis Goodall tweeted, “This has just been tweeted from the UK Civil Service account. This is the craziest political weekend for a long time.”
This has just been tweeted from the UK Civil Service account.
This is the craziest political weekend for a long time. pic.twitter.com/u4x0i6plHL
— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) May 24, 2020
During Johnson’s press conference, he announced that he had examined the findings on his senior aide “carefully” and came to the conclusion that the reports in the newspapers did “not seem to correspond remotely with reality.” Cummings is accused of driving 260 miles across England to visit with his parents, even though his wife was sick with coronavirus, thus breaking numerous of the guidelines put in place during the country’s lockdown.
“I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent, and I do not mark him down for that,” Johnson said.
Witnesses also spotted Cummings visiting a town 30 miles away from his parents’ house, and the prime minister was asked by reporters if he knew Cummings had left London at the time. However, Johnson, who after being infected with COVID-19 in April, required hospital care in the intensive care unit, did not comment on any specifics of the controversy surrounding Cummings’ whereabouts. He said that he believes Cummings “behaved responsibly.”
— Dave 🏳️🌈🖐️ (@namenotinserted) May 24, 2020
Before the controversial tweet was deleted, BBC News reported on the surprising message, as the U.K. Civil Service is largely expected to remain impartial in its news.
J.K. Rowling Offered the Hacker A Year’s Salary For Their Bold Actions
When you find out who it was, let us know. I want to give them a year’s salary. https://t.co/D7DRlwcjty
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) May 24, 2020
While it was unclear whether or not the account was hacked by a stranger or a disgruntled employee, A U.K. Government spokesperson said, “An unauthorized tweet was posted on a government channel this evening. The post has been removed and we are investigating the matter.”
The viral tweet, while quickly deleted, was screenshot and went viral on Twitter. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling loved the “arrogant and offensive” message so much that she offered up a reward to whoever managed to hack into the U.K. Civil Service’s account. She tweeted directly to the Cabinet Office saying, “When you find out who it was, let us know. I want to give them a year’s salary.”
— Jamie Bolton (@JamieBolton) May 24, 2020
While the identity of the hacker remains unknown, numerous users online wanted to claim to be the “hero” who sent the tweet. Comedian Alex Kitson attempted to claim the tweet as his own as a joke but then apologized after users online truly believed it was him. Out of respect for the actual hacker, who could be an employee who may find themselves soon without a job, Kitson tweeted, “I’ve deleted it now. Don’t want to take credit for someone else’s bravery.”
I’ve deleted it now. Don’t want to take credit for someone else’s bravery.
— Alex Kitson (@AlexKitson0) May 24, 2020