Twitter accounts belonging to high-profile media outlets, international brands and politicians worldwide were hacked on Wednesday, briefly showing posts in support of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president who is in a bitter standoff with European countries.
One of the victims was Marcelo Claure, the chief executive of Overland Park-based Sprint Corp., according to media reports. Sprint declined to comment.
Other accounts hacked included the UK Department of Health, BBC North America, publishing sites for Die Welt, Forbes and Reuters Japan and several nonprofit agencies including Amnesty International and UNICEF USA, as well as Duke University.
The government in Ankara is at odds with several countries, including the Netherlands and Germany, over whether Turkish politicians should be allowed to speak at political rallies in those states. Although the dispute centers on rallies for a referendum on Turkey’s Constitution, the brief hacks came on the day that Dutch voters cast their ballots in a general election. Separately, another online attack struck websites in the Netherlands that help people decide how to vote.
Erdogan has criticized the German and Dutch governments, accusing them of Nazism, after Turkish politicians were prevented from attending events in several European countries.
The Twitter hacking on Wednesday appeared to be related to the dispute between the NATO members, according to a New York Times report. The defamatory messages in Turkish accused Germany and the Netherlands of having Nazi ties, and linked to a video of a speech by Erdogan.
While the online messages were quickly removed and control of the accounts returned to their owners, many of the organizations and policy makers moved to distance themselves from the tweets. It was unclear who had carried out the hacking.
“We temporarily lost control of this account, but normal service has resumed,” the British Broadcasting Corporation said.
The problem may have originated with a hack to Twitter Counter, a third-party application employed by some account holders to keep track of their online followers. The operation, which is based in the Netherlands, said on Wednesday that it was aware of the hacking, and that it had blocked its service’s ability to post from users’ Twitter handles.
In response, Twitter said that it was aware that the intrusion may have resulted from a third-party app.
“We quickly located the source,” Twitter said in a statement. “No additional accounts are impacted.”
The New York Times, Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this story.