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Burger King schadenfreude

Protest in the age of the LULZ hack

Under Hacked + Burned, Dazed tech writer Stephen Fortune reports on the lives and times, trials and tribulations of this brave new world, from cipher-punk to open source activism.

Even a king looks like the rest of us when he's on the john!

For a full 45 minutes some would be hackers ran amok with Burger King's official twitter account. In a deft move that nailed two (perhaps even three) birds with one stone, the “hackers” converted Burger King's avatar and profile stylings into something aping McDonalds, under the pretence of a franchise buyout. 

The terms of brand engagement were gleefully violated in what amounted to a social media dirty protest, as offensive content was dredged up and daubed along the King's timeline. The one thing Burger King's social media team can be grateful for is the inadvertent street cred garnered by shout outs to rap's enfant terrible Chief Keef

And how we all laughed. Whoever was behind these japes was following the 'offend all comers' strategy. New additions to the menu included a Big Mac's and bath salts special offer. A candid look at BK's new employment policies reflected a zero tolerance approach to burger-flipping under the influence:

All that schadenfreude was just as fleeting as the total time during which the account was commandeered. It's certainly fun when anarchy befalls the lumbering brands heaving with desire for our attention. Pouring bitter scorn over big brands is a welcome tonic to their choreographed attempts to nestle within our streams of consciousness.

And yet, fast moving protest for protests sake all feels a little bit 2011, and we did see it die a death last year. This is what we're left with, the amusing embers of pointless protest, invective directed at targets that move within a field of play only as an afterthought. Smack! Furore! Post ALL the offensive things! Signifying? A last hurrah of spite that can be hurled at the big dumb brands, and a golden opportunity for more gurus to make sure your twitter feed contains yet more carefully vetted banality. 

As a moment of nuisance and opportunism the perpetrators (incidentally unlikely to have been an Anonymous operation given how cloyingly the coopted account clamoured for validation from @YourAnonNews) outdid themselves. Copywriters the internet over are keen to link outbursts on Twitter like this and HMVs brief Twitter mutiny, but it'd be misguided to read this sideshow as indicative of the state of digital activism as a whole. For future lulz hunters the lessons to be learned are hardly novel: move fast and up the ante or move on. Twitter has the lowest barrier to being hacked in this manner, making it one of the easiest avenues to digitally deface a brand. Twitter could hardly have wished for a less opportune incident to follow news of a hiked up price for promoted tweets, so the likely near term outcome is security changes to Twitter aimed at wrapping brands in cotton wool against future 'Burger King' flames.