US military account's gibberish tweet prompts viral mystery

The perils of working from home while managing the social media account of a major military power have been thrown into sharp relief after the US Strategic Command tweeted a confusing string of gibberish.

Thirteen mysterious characters long, the tweet – “;l;;gmlzxssaw – prompted some on social media to jokingly suggest it was confidential information, for example a password or a nuclear launch code, that had accidentally been leaked.

The retired US army lieutenant general Mark Hertling summed up a lot of the response by posting: “It’s a pocket tweet from our nuclear headquarters. Everything’s fine,” with a laughing emoji.

The humorous Twitter account Giant Military Cats, which usually posts manipulated images of military hardware being operated by giant cats, raised a laugh by tweeting: “I am in big trouble … ” – implying that a cat walking across the keyboard had caused the tweet to be sent.

However, through a freedom of information request, the online publication the Daily Dot discovered the tweet had been published due to what must be every social media manager’s nightmare. The Strategic Command’s freedom of information officer said in a statement that “the command’s Twitter manager, while in a telework status, momentarily left the command’s Twitter account open and unattended. His very young child took advantage of the situation and started playing with the keys and unfortunately, and unknowingly, posted the tweet.”

The manager sent out an apology for the tweet within half an hour. However, the wording of the apology – “Apologizes for any confusion. Please disregard this post” – only caused further bafflement on the internet.

Both tweets have been deleted, preventing further sharing of the communications mishap, which had gone viral. The freedom of information officer confirmed that “absolutely nothing nefarious occurred, ie no hacking of our Twitter account. The post was discovered and notice to delete it occurred telephonically.”

The US Strategic Command account, which has nearly 200,000 followers, is more normally used to post tweets about operational achievements and US military hardware.

It is not the first time the US military has run into trouble on social media. Last year the Air Force Special Operations Command had to delete a tweet making light of the Covid pandemic, and a social media manager working for the US army was fired after another post about the coronavirus pandemic was deemed to be racist.

A 2019 tweet from the US army asking “How has serving impacted you?” was designed as part of a campaign to generate inspiring stories to aid recruitment. Instead many of the replies were from US military veterans complaining about how they had been treated after leaving the military.

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