A recent tweet from the official Twitter account of the United States Strategic Command — which is responsible for sharing announcements about nuclear operations and other missile defense-related developments — left some people alarmed and others amused. The agency, which is tasked with securing the launch codes of America’s nuclear arsenal, tweeted on Sunday a bunch of letters and punctuation marks without further explanation: ";l;;gmlxzssaw." Naturally, this sparked conspiracy theory and panic.
It turns out that the mysterious message was accidentally typed by the child of the person managing the American Strategic Command's Twitter, as reported by Daily Dot.
Journalist Mikael Thalen filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out what exactly happened to the @USSTRATCOM account earlier this week. "[It] turns out that the Twitter manager left his computer unattended,” Thalen said, “resulting in his 'very young child' commandeering the keyboard."
The FOIA response notes, "Absolutely nothing nefarious occurred, i.e., no hacking of our Twitter account. The post was discovered and notice to delete it occurred telephonically." It must be assuring to many to know that this was not a case of a breach or bad actors hijacking a highly sensitive social media account, but the incident sparked two legitimate discussions: one sympathetic to the stress many working parents feel right now and the other on how easy it is to spread outlandish misinformation online.
Lockdown madness — For starters, the nonsensical tweet gave people yet more damning proof of how our current work-from-home lifestyle is weighing heavy on parents, especially those concerned with high-security social media management. The manager accidentally left his laptop open, which gave his child the chance to pound on the keyboard. After receiving a call from higher-ups, he removed the tweet.
It is understandable that people were alarmed by this incident given that it concerns the @USSTRATCOM account but this is not the first time that overworked and stressed-out parents have experienced the occasional WFH hiccup while juggling professional and parenting responsibilities all at once.
Secondly, and more bizarrely, the tweet sparked conspiracy theories among the far-right QAnon movement. Media Matters senior researcher Alex Kaplan found conspiratorial tweets claiming that the tweeted gibberish was code for "Q Acquitted." Of course, this is baseless. But it goes to show you that it doesn’t take a lot to turn a toddler’s mischief into warped theory online.