While You Were Offline: Taylor Swift Gets Hacked and Comcast Enrages the Internet


Screengrab: WIRED

This week, the Internet abounded with important questions: How can someone who’s trademarking a random phrase not look like a villain in these days of information wants to be free? When is a Latina cartoon character not Latina? Why shouldn’t you piss off Comcast? Why are error pages the hot new thing on a certain website? Does anyone care about Super Bowl ads enough to make them worth the cost? And most importantly of all, have you got what a piano-playing dog nee-eeds? The answers to all of these (and more) await you below, as we round up what you need to know about the last seven days on this wild wooly web.

Hashtag Hackers Gonna Hack, Hack, Hack

What Happened: Taylor Swift took on hackers. It still hasn’t been determined who won, to be honest.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: While on vacation earlier this week, Pop’s Favorite Taylor (Sorry Ms. Dayne and Mr. Hawkins) apparently woke up to find her Twitter account had been hacked (and later, her Instagram account, too). Soon thereafter, TMZ reported the hackers were planning on releasing nude pictures of the singer they’d accessed as a result of the hacks, although Swift quickly suggested that was more tabloid fantasy than anything else. (Whether or not the images exist, someone is definitely trying to sell them, as Gawker reported later in the week.)

Something the hackers did have was access to Swift’s Twitter direct messages, which made it online on Tuesday afternoon, only to reinforce the belief that maybe Swift is just a nice person after all. She asks people how their 2015 is going so far! She makes self-conscious jokes about being bad because she plays cards and drinks! She makes whale puns! How could you fail to be charmed by all of that?

The Takeaway: It’s so charming—and the hack in general evokes such sympathy for Swift overall—that it’s almost enough to make you forgive her for trademarking everyday phrases like “this sick beat.” Hackers, well done; you accidentally created the perfect counter-narrative to undo any ill will Taylor might have received otherwise.

Disney Finally Enters A Whole New World

What Happened: In 2015, just 93 years after its creation, Disney announced it would be adding its first Latina Disney princess to its stable of characters. In 2015.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Disney introduced Elena of Avalor, who’ll show up in the successful Disney Junior series Sofia the First before getting her own TV series next year, and initial feedback was mutedly enthusiastic. Yet many fans wondered why it hadn’t happened before, or why she was only getting a TV show.

And then it turned out that, well, maybe she wouldn’t be Latina after all, because a Disney executive had previously suggested that real world cultures and ethnicities don’t actually exist in Disney’s fairytale lands. This is where you have to start wondering if we should even give Disney points for trying, isn’t it?

The Takeaway: Let’s wait and see if Disney can clarify the status of Elena’s cultural origins and manage to explore them without exploiting or cheapening them, shall we? Next up: Waiting for Disney to realize the problematic elements of the “Princess” archetype in general, and working out ways to deal with those. We’re not going to hold our breath.

Turns Out, Comcast Does Hate Its Customers

What Happened: Comcast officially changed the first name of one of its customers to “Asshole.”

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Ricardo Brown’s wife called Comcast to try and cancel their cable service, with little success. That’s not to say nothing changed as the result of her attempt, however; instead, the next bill Brown got from the company saw him officially renamed “Asshole Brown.” As you might expect, the story quickly went viral, with seemingly every major site weighing in on the subject. (Reddit also got in on the act.) On the plus side, at least Comcast has apologized, but let’s just wait and see if they also offer free Internet for a couple of years to back up the apology.

The Takeaway: Admit it. Now you’re worried about what your Internet provider secretly calls you, aren’t you?

The Greatest 404 Error Ever

What Happened: Bloomberg.com’s 404 error page has been gaining some fans. Yes, really; the 404 error page.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Earlier this week, someone on Twitter noticed that the Bloomberg News site had a great 404 error page. And then, lots of other people noticed. (It’s not just the 404 page, the 500 error page is equally hypnotic, as is the Politics-specific 404 page.) You should thank design company Code and Theory, it turns out.

The Takeaway: Other websites, it’s time to up your game. At least until we find out from Bloomberg that everyone started going to its 404 page at the expense of going to every other page on the site.

It’s The Most Expensive Ad Time Of The Year

What Happened: Ahead of the Big Game, countless Super Bowl ads flooded the Internet.

Where It Blew Up: Blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: With the Super Bowl almost upon us, companies that have spent obscene amounts of money on special ads for the game have tried to maximize their investment by releasing the ads online first and seeing if anyone’s interested. This year’s spots include appearances by Kim Kardashian, Katie Couric and Mindy Kaling—oh, and an entirely adorable lost puppy.

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