The Twitter feed of news agency AFP's photo department was hacked yesterday, apparently by supporters of embattled Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad.
The agency's main Twitter account tweeted that any documents or images posted to the photo-dept feed from 16.45 had not come from Agence France-Presse:
It appears our @afpphoto Twitter account has been hacked. Recent photos posted are NOT ours. Unable to delete but working on it— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) February 26, 2013
AFP eventually suspended the account, which remains down today.
The pictures on the feed were of graphic images from the conflict in Syria, frequently of low quality and accompanied by captions that accused "Obama backed" rebel armies of killing children and using them as soldiers. The tweets also showed images allegedly of citizens supporting Assad or celebrating the arrival of Syrian soldiers.
The Atlantic saved a number of the tweets here, but some contain graphic images that may be disturbing.
The AFP photo feed doesn't have a long reach, since it only has around 3,600 followers and was set up less than two weeks ago, so it's unclear why it was targeted by the hackers - unless it was a case of hacking who you can, rather than who you would like to. The suggestion that the photos were endorsed by the wire service may also have been seen as adding believeability to the message the pics sought to push*.
AFP's security experts have also said that the wire service has been the victim this week of a phishing attack seeking to steal the IDs and passwords of employees by getting them to log into a fake AFP website. They say the attack has been unsuccessful so far but have not said whether the phishing could be related to the Twitter hack. ®
*At least among people unfamiliar with the frequently rather dodgy nature of some photos supplied even by reputable media outfits, which often show evidence of being at the very least creatively amended or photoshopped. An example can be seen here, of an AFP/Getty image in which a Syrian rebel commander in combat seemingly brandishes a weapon which is - apparently - simultaneously belt and drum fed. - Ed