A diplomatic spat between Turkey, the Netherlands and Germany spread online on Wednesday when a large number of Twitter accounts were hijacked and replaced with anti-Nazi messages in Turkish.
Reuters reports that the attacks, using the hashtags #Nazialmanya (NaziGermany) or #Nazihollanda (NaziHolland), took over accounts of high-profile CEOs, publishers, government agencies, politicians and also some ordinary Twitter users.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has accused the German and Dutch governments of Nazi-style tactics, drawing protests from both countries, after Turkish government ministers were barred from addressing political rallies there to boost his support among expatriate Turks.
The account hijackings took place as the Dutch began voting on Wednesday in a parliamentary election that is seen as a test of anti-establishment and anti-immigrant sentiment.
“Politically motivated cyber attacks in general thrive on making as large a media impact as possible and therefore it is expected to see these attacks whenever a political conflict escalates,” FireEye cyber security analyst Jens Monrad said.
The hacked accounts featured tweets with Nazi symbols, a variety of hashtags and the phrase “See you on April 16”, the date of a planned referendum in Turkey on extending Erdogan’s presidential powers.
Among them were the accounts of the European Parliament and the personal profile of French conservative politician Alain Juppe.
They also included the UK Department of Health and BBC North America, along with the profile of Marcelo Claure, the chief executive of U.S. telecoms operator Sprint Corp.
Other accounts included publishing sites for Die Welt, Forbes and Reuters Japan and several non-profit agencies including Amnesty International and UNICEF USA, as well as Duke University in the United States.
The hijacked profiles were recovered, some more quickly than others. BBC North America tweeted: “Hi everyone – we temporarily lost control of this account, but normal service has resumed”.