It’s been a busy year, so we’ll forgive you if you’ve forgotten about this one.
On July 15th, 2020, Twitter was the target of a widespread, disruptive hacking campaign. More than 100 high-profile accounts — including those of Jeff Bezos, Uber, Apple, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Kanye West — simultaneously tweeted out promises to match Bitcoin donations to a single linked charity, only within a 30-minute window. The charity was fake, and the scam essentially shut down Twitter for a few hours; developers caught it quickly and temporarily removed the ability for all verified accounts to tweet. Still, the hackers made off with an estimated $100,000.
The New York Times published an interview with the scammers just a few days after the hack, alleging it was orchestrated by a small group of Discord users in their late teens and early 20s. On July 31st, police in Tampa, Florida, arrested 17-year-old Graham Clark on charges that he was the mastermind behind the scheme.
This story is the focus of Friday’s episode of The New York Times Presents, which airs on FX at 10PM ET. “The Teenager Who Hacked Twitter” will also appear on Hulu the following day, via the FX on Hulu hub. The New York Times Presents is a series of standalone documentaries featuring investigative reporting around relevant social issues, and this is the fifth episode of its first season.
In Tampa, Clark has pleaded not guilty to 17 counts of communications fraud, 11 counts of fraudulent use of personal information, organized fraud of more than $5,000, and accessing computers without authority. He will be tried as an adult.
Two others were charged alongside Clark in a criminal complaint out of California: 19-year-old Mason Sheppard from the United Kingdom, and 22-year-old Nima Fazeli of Orlando, Florida.