PARIS: Yet her fans’ hearts may have skipped a beat today when tweets purportedly from Sony Music Entertainment said “RIP @britneyspears #RIPBritney 1981-2016” and “Britney spears is dead by accident! We will tell you more soon #RIPBritney.” The real Sony Music Entertainment quickly deleted those tweets and issued a terse clarification: “Sony Music Entertainment’s Twitter account was compromised. This has been rectified,” it said. “Sony Music apologizes to Britney Spears and her fans for any confusion.” Spears’s manager, Adam Leber, told CNN that “Britney is fine and well.” She had posted photos on Sunday of her children in camouflage gear during an outdoors excursion. “There have been a few Internet clowns over the years who have made similar claims about her death,” Leber said, “but never from the official Sony Music Twitter account.” In 2001, a Texas radio station reported that Spears and then-boyfriend Justin Timberlake had died in a car crash. Two on-air personalities were later fired for repeating bogus Internet reports. In addition to Sony’s Twitter account, the official account of Bob Dylan may have been hacked on Monday: It tweeted: “Rest in peace @britneyspears” about the same time as the fake Sony tweets were going out. While the origin of the erroneous tweets was not certain, the hacker group OurMine was a prime suspect. One tweet from Dylan’s account included the OurMine hashtag.
The group has hacked the accounts of other celebrities – including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg – as well as those of Netflix, Marvel and Variety magazine. It has then offered to provide its own security services to prevent future attacks. Buzzfeed reported in October that OurMine is a Saudi teenager who goes by the name “Ahmad Makki” on social media. OurMine, however, said “Makki” was simply a fan. But Buzzfeed’s website was then compromised and several posts were altered to read “Hacked by OurMine.” The latest episode was reminiscent of the massive cyberattack against Sony in November 2014. A hacking group known as GOP had penetrated the Japanese company’s computer system and seized personal data about thousands of its employees, including stars. GOP then demanded that the studio cancel all showings of “The Interview,” a satirical movie about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Some US officials said the Pyongyang government might be behind the hacks. Sony eventually issued the film, but only in limited release. The deaths of many other celebrities – from Beyonce to Michael Jordan to Jackie Chan and Sylvester Stallone – have been erroneously reported over the years, often in hacked internet postings.