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“RIP @britneyspears,” read the tweet from its official Sony Music Global handle shortly after 8 a.m. ET. The post also had a frown-face emoji and the hashtag #RIPBritney with the years “1981-2016.”
The account, however, quickly posted a second tweet that signaled to those following the news that Sony had likely been hacked. “Britney spears is dead by accident! we will tell you more soon,” read the second tweet, again with the same hashtag and emoji.
Thirty minutes later, several tweets were posted from the account, with the group OurMine taking responsibility.
By 9 a.m., the Sony tweets had been deleted.
Hacker group OurMine has frequently targeted high-profile accounts over the past year, including Marvel’s accounts, as well as Netflix’s in the same day last week. In September, the group gained access to Variety magazine’s website and email system, sending multiple messages to subscribers with the subject line “Hacked by #OurMine.”
The group is ostensibly using these high-profile hacks as a way to market and promote its security services.
“Sony Music Entertainment’s Twitter account was compromised,” said Sony in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter and sister magazine Billboard around 12:45 p.m.. “This has been rectified. Sony Music apologizes to Britney Spears and her fans for any confusion.”
Singer Bob Dylan was apparently hacked as well after sending a tweet, since deleted, that read “Rest in peace @britneyspears” with the same emoji. The account then shared Sony’s tweet and mentioned OurMine in subsequent, also deleted, posts.
Sony and a rep for Dylan later confirmed that Sony Music manages the singer’s Twitter account.
The reaction to the hoax was swift on Twitter, with many users referencing the high-profile Sony hack of 2014, one of the worst cyber attacks in corporate history.
“Someone has hacked one of Sony Music’s Twitter accounts, it seems,” tweeted Ryan Brown (@Toadsanime). “Keeping up the tradition of great internet security, Sony.”
Another user, SimplyPamarie (@simplypamarie), tweeted, “Sony must have gotten hacked again. Why can’t y’all get it together?”
Spears’ manager Adam Leber told CNN the singer was “fine and well,” adding, “There have been a few Internet clowns over the years who have made similar claims about her death, but never from the official Sony Music Twitter account.”
Around 5 p.m., Spears herself took to Twitter to post a series of photos. “Don’t underestimate the power of Charlie’s [Angels],” she posted.
Don’t underestimate the power of Charlie’s pic.twitter.com/vy0PyEGoAj
— Britney Spears (@britneyspears) December 26, 2016
Dec. 26, 12:45 p.m. ET: Updated with Sony statement.
4:35 p.m.: Updated that Sony manages Dylan’s account.
5 p.m.: Updated with Spears’ tweet.
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