Revenge and social media go together like salt and caramel. And what better way to wreak vengeance than by hacking a corporate social media account.

The latest victim is adult magazine Penthouse Australia. Apparently Penthouse got behind on salary payments. And that’s when its Twitter feed went... off message. Fake cover mock-ups appeared for a gay issue and a Lego issue, among other things.

So what can you do if your Twitter brand gets misappropriated? Legally speaking, you have a few options. From a PR perspective though, you want to tread carefully. Wheeling out the litigators might not improve your situation.

  1. Damage control is your first concern. Stop the bleeding. Change the password, and look at removing any content that is horribly offensive.
  2. Find out who accessed the account. Depending on the nature of the hack, this might be easy or hard.
  3. Assess your legal options. There are a few causes of action that might give you the right to an injunction and/or damages. Decide whether to get the cops involved; hacking is generally a crime.
    1. There may be a breach of confidence if the hacker has posted confidential information or trade secrets or is threatening to do so.
    2. If you have (or had) a commercial relationship with the hacker, there might be confidentiality provisions in employee, supply or service contracts. 
    3. A company generally can’t sue for defamation, but individuals referred to might have a claim.
    4. If the hacker has acted maliciously and with a reckless disregard for the truth then you may have a claim for malicious falsehood.
  4. Your legal options can then feed into the broader discussion on appropriate response. There are a lot of possibilities from silence, to witty repartee, to distraction, to urgent court action. Think about how your response fits with your brand and how much time and effort the response deserves.
  5. Your decision making will have to happen at warp speed. If you have a big social media presence then you should have a crisis plan in place already. Don’t wait to figure it out after the event.