On Monday morning, the endless avalanche of untimely 2016 celebrity deaths appeared to have claimed another victim: 35-year-old pop star Britney Spears. Except it wasn’t true.
A tweet posted to Sony Music Global’s Twitter account (@SonyMusicGlobal) just after 8 a.m. on Monday morning read: “Britney Spears is dead by accident! We will tell you more soon #RIPBritney.” It was shortly followed by another “#RIPBritney” tweet.
But a representative for the singer said that the tweets were a hoax. "I assume their account has been hacked," Spears’ manager Adam Leber told CNN. "Britney is fine and well.”
Sony Music, in the meantime, issued a short statement announcing that its social media account had been “compromised” and that it “apologizes to Britney Spears and her fans for any confusion.”
Shortly after the fake death news was posted, the hacker group known as OurMine posted two tweets to the Sony Music account, one of which read: “We saw a new IP logged in to the account a few minutes ago and the Tweet is posted by a new IP so @britneyspears is still alive #OurMine.”
This has led to speculation that OurMine may have been responsible for seizing the account and posting the news of Spears’ death — since the group has in the past seized high-profile Twitter accounts belonging to companies such as Netflix and the National Football League, purportedly to draw attention to issues of cybersecurity.
CBS News, which has been in touch with the hacker collective since this morning’s incident, reports that the group declined to take responsibility for the initial death tweet — though the group did admit to breaking into the account after that tweet had been sent.
The incident raises the specter of the Sony hacking incident from 2014, when a cyberattack led to the widespread release of sensitive company information.
The posts about Spears’ death and the OurMine tweets have since been removed from Sony Music’s Twitter account. Representatives from Sony could not be reached for further comment.
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