News of the World

News of the World's Twitter shutdown: an "open" case?

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It would be a great story for Britain’s best-read Sunday tabloid: A handful of former employees of a powerful corporation took to Twitter and threatened to air its secrets.

If only Britain’s best-read Sunday tabloid still existed, that is.

The story reads like something from a Fleet Street scandal sheet: A handful of supposed ex-employees of News International, an arm of News Corp. which publishes a number of Britain’s largest newspapers, took to Twitter to air the newspaper’s dirty laundry last week after the newspaper was shut down following a series of hacking scandals. Since then, most of the accounts have gone silent or disappeared completely.

And no one, including News International, appears to know why.

“(We have) no idea who these guys are,” said News International spokeswoman Daisy Dunlop in an exclusive interview with The Daily Dot. “Fair to say that we have a completely open approach to staff using Twitter and other social networks for personal and business use.”

The accounts included @FormerNOTWhack, @ExNOTWjourno2 and @NOTWjourno. The most notable one was @ExNOTWjourno, an account which amassed more than 20,000 followers and promised to release scathing documents about News International.

“Here's the situation. x-Notw journalists +friends going to release Blog on Sat night. Inside story of NOTW. Stories we weren't able to tell,” tweeted @ExNOTWjourno Saturday.

But before any information could be leaked, the account disappeared Sunday, the same day the final edition of the newspaper ran.

Since then, most of the accounts have been deleted and only a few remain active. @NOTWjourno’s profile declares that it is no longer run by a former NOTW employee and @ExNOTWjourno2 hasn’t thrown much mud.

Yet the mystery behind these accounts remains and News International does not have many answers. Dunlop did not comment on whether News International had anything to do with the missing accounts.

Twitter would not comment on the accounts’ shutdown or apparent handover because of “privacy reasons,” said spokeswoman Carolyn Penner in an email to The Daily Dot.

This ongoing mystery shows, at the very least, that Twitter is hardly a secure place to air dirty laundry -- as the recently disbanded hacker group LulzSec learned.