Politics

YFrog ‘glitch’ generates random, offensive tweets tied to verified lawmakers’ Twitter accounts

Vince Coglianese Editorial Director

Confusing and offensive postings to YFrog.com, allegedly from the certified Twitter accounts of various U.S. lawmakers, have been caused by an apparent technical failure affecting users of the image-sharing site.

“I love to smoke the good..” writes @NancyPelosi above a smoke-trail laden image of Space Shuttle Discovery’s February 24, 2011 launch from Kennedy Space Center — an odd bit of wording for what was earlier publicly shared using the tweet, “Just watched Discovery launch @NASAKennedy – spectacular! Follow @NASA for more on #STS133 http://yfrog.com/hsoazyj.”

“We did not post that text,” said Nadeam Elshami, Pelosi’s communications director. “We immediately contacted Twitter officials who contacted YFrog after the media inquiry from The Daily Caller.”

In another YFrog posting, Rep. Tim Griffin’s page shows a garbled tweet from early February that reads “”@Stixx_: #TittieTuesday ~~~> [REDACTED HYPERLINK]” ◄ noooo!!! *covers eyes*.”

The inclusion of the phrase “#TittieTuesday” would usually be enough to raise some eyebrows, but the accompanying hyperlink, which appears only on YFrog, delivers viewers to an off-site image of a black woman lifting her shirt and revealing her bare breasts.

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But it’s highly unlikely that such a convoluted message and offensive outgoing link would appear above a photo of a blurry congressional press conference. “The photo on YFrog is from a press conference the congressman attended in February on the F-35 Alternate Engine,” said Jonathan Samford, communications director for Rep. Griffin. “We did not write the message that appears above the photo, have no idea how it got there, and are reporting it to YFrog for an explanation.”

An investigation conducted by TheDC into the postings tied to hundreds of U.S. lawmakers on YFrog’s website rarely yielded peculiar findings, and instead mostly included thousands of regular photo ops with congressional visitors and at district events.

But for some congressmen and senators, the accompanying text above otherwise routine photos would occasionally appear to be personal messages, nonsensical strings, or foreign language communications.

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey’s YFrog page contained two foreign language transmissions, one appearing to be written in Dutch, the other in Portuguese. Running the text through Google Translator yielded odd exchanges.

“I figured… 😉 RT @flitslwd: It always comes out: The location of King’s Speech was also once used gay porn [REDACTED HYPERLINK],” reads the posting translated from Dutch. (The corresponding link uses a side-by-side photo comparison in an effort to prove that the film ‘The King’s Speech’ shared a common film set with a gay porn photo shoot.)

“Has cried for a boy? — tell me what the girl did not cry jah q?” says a now seemingly Portuguese-speaking @SenToomey.

An official from Toomey’s office indicated that they were completely unaware of the randomly attributed messages, and that the issue seemed to be one on YFrog’s end.

So are any number of individuals with authorized access to such a wide array of lawmakers’ Twitter accounts truly posting such nonsense?

No, claims every one of the congressional offices reached by TheDC.

YFrog’s posting security came under a flurry of scrutiny recently amidst speculation that New York Rep. Anthony Weiner’s account was hacked as he originally claimed.

Hap Aziz, a technology director at Rasmussen College, told Fox News that YFrog was easily hackable up until June 2, when the photo service took steps to improve their upload system.

Jack Levin, CEO of ImageShack, YFrog’s parent company, was adamant that YFrog is secure from hackers, especially after the doubts cast upon the company during “Weinergate.” “Mr. Weiner actually admitted he posted the photo himself,” Levin told TheDC. Levin maintains that the blogging community ginned up the notion that YFrog’s “system was insecure only to discover there was no hacking.”

But the matter of lawmakers tweeting ostensibly nonsensical phrases via YFrog’s service raises fresh questions regarding the image site’s security issues.

After being contacted by TheDC and multiple lawmakers apparently affected by mismatched tweets, YFrog launched an investigation into what if anything was causing the errant messages and began the process of restoring the originally tweeted text to each photo.

“We have been doing an investigation today and what we found is that there was a glitch,” explained Levin Wednesday evening. “We don’t really know how it originated, there was no hacking involved.”

Levin said that unrelated tweets were somehow being matched with random photos across the service and only impacted “less than 100 accounts,” and preliminary findings by TheDC showed that at least 13 U.S. lawmakers were potentially among those numbers.

In addition to Pelosi, Griffin, and Toomey, Reps. Kevin Yoder, Frank LoBiondo, John Shimkus, Phil Roe, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Cathy McMorris and Sens. Robert Menendez, Ben Nelson, Sherrod Brown, and John McCain all had YFrog matched tweets that were completely unrelated to the content of their photos.

Levin told TheDC that he couldn’t pinpoint where the “bug” was coming from. “We don’t know if it’s our bug or a Twitter bug or if it’s a browser bug.” (Opening the images in multiple browsers prior to YFrog’s efforts to fix each page yielded the same results.)

As of Thursday morning, every one of the photos flagged by TheDC were either refreshed to include the genuine original tweet or deleted entirely. The ImageShack CEO said YFrog’s issues have been resolved, and that “there’s no way something like this could happen again.”

Amanda Seitz contributed to this report.

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