On Thursday, shortly before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was supposed to speak at the 2017 Harvard University Commencement ceremony, hackers broke into the website of the Harvard Crimson, the university’s student-run paper, and plastered it with fake satirical articles written about and by names like Mick Zollywop, Merk Zuckerbook, and Mork Zinkletink. No one has officially claimed the hack, but shortly after, Inverse was contacted by representatives of the Harvard Lampoon, the college’s long-running satirical magazine, who were having an absolute ball at the Crimson’s expense.
“All we know is that it was probably Mark Zoinkleberg,” a member of the Lampoon told Inverse while other people cracked up in the background. “This is clearly a huge risk. The Crimson, if this is any evidence, has very low security and cannot be trusted as a news source if things like this are happening overnight.”
In other words, I can’t completely confirm that the Harvard Lampoon was behind the hack on the Harvard Crimson, but it sure as hell looks that way, and the two organization have a longstanding, rivalry filled with this kind of shenanigans.
The representative from the Lampoon identified himself as Tom Watros — there’s nobody by that name listed on the masthead, although Tom Waddick is the paper’s circulation manager (it’s possible I misheard him, due to a dorm-room full of aspiring Clickhole writers laughing their asses off every time he said something, or that it’s some cute inside joke that he wanted me to print). Tom explicitly mentioned the “history of the Crimson’s reckless reporting,” pointing to when the Crimson endorsed Donald Trump for president in 2015.
Except they didn’t — it was another completely insane prank by the Lampoon. The two publications have been messing with each other for decades, often sneaking into each other’s offices to steal stuff. The Lampoon has some metal bird statue that the Crimson likes to steal, and the Crimson has a big pretentious chair that the Lampoon writers steal. In 2015, the Lampoon took it to a whole new level. Lampoon writers used bolt cutters to steal the chained-down chair from the Crimson offices, then drove it to New York City and, posing as Crimson staffers, arranged a meeting with then-candidate Donald Trump where he sat in the chair for a photo and they “endorsed” him.
Pretty much everyone involved thought it was hilarious, except for Trump.
“The students who perpetrated this are fraudsters and liars, but frankly it was a waste of only a few minutes,” a Trump spokesperson told the Washington Post. “Mr. Trump attended the great Wharton School of Finance, a school that has more important things to do.”
Tom refused to officially confirm the hack, but did say that “the Lampoon would like to see the Crimson pledge support to the News Integrity Initiative.” For reference, the NII is Facebook’s vauguely-worded “global consortium” with the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and other partners that aims to “advance news literacy,” whatever that means. Tom said the Lampoon would match any donation that the Crimson made to Facebook’s NII “dollar for dollar.”
When reached by email, Crimson President Derek Choi told Inverse that the paper would not comment further than its original statement, as it hadn’t “fully established the circumstances” of the hack.
Earlier today, The Harvard Crimson’s website was altered by an unauthorized user. We are currently working to repair the breach. We regret any inconvenience to our users and look forward to the rest of Commencement.
Representatives from Facebook did not immediately respond for comment when asked if Zuckerberg had checked the Crimson that day, but it sounds like he got through his commencement speech just fine.
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