U.S. Strategic Command, the people tasked with overseeing the nation’s nuclear weapons, sent out a weird tweet on Monday of complete gibberish, writing “;l;;gmlxzssaw.” What could it mean? Twitter users joked about the possibility of nuclear war, but no one knew for sure.
It turns out Stratcom wasn’t hacked and the U.S. wasn’t dangerously close to accidentally launching nuclear weapons at North Korea. The tweet was sent by a small child. And no, not just a figurative child, like so many obnoxious Twitter users on the platform these days. It was a literal child.
Journalist Mikael Thalen of the Daily Dot filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Monday, and while there weren’t any records of the incident — at least according to Stratcom — the FOIA officer helpfully explained how the bizarre tweet was sent out.
“The Command’s Twitter manager, while in a telework status, momentarily left the Command’s Twitter account open and unattended,” the FOIA response explained, according to records obtained by the Daily Dot. “His very young child took advantage of the situation and started playing with the keys and unfortunately, and unknowingly, posted the tweet.”
The letter goes on to explain that there aren’t any records to hand over through the Freedom of Information Act because the entire matter was handled over the phone.
“Absolutely nothing nefarious occurred, i.e., no hacking of our Twitter account,” Stratcom wrote. “The post was discovered and notice to delete it occurred telephonically.”
This isn’t the first time that U.S. Strategic Command has made some mistakes online. Back in September of 2017, Stratcom sent out a premature tweet about new satellites, cutting off not just the sentence, but sending the tweet mid-word.
Two new satellites now operational, expand U.S. space situational awar https://t.co/cEnL79bMav
— US Strategic Command (@US_Stratcom) September 26, 2017
Stratcom also received some criticism over its Twitter account back in April of 2017 when it sent out an article by the far-right propaganda outlet Breitbart. In that case, Gizmodo submitted its own FOIA request and received dozens of pages of emails about the blowback it received for spreading “news” from a website that used to feature a section called “black crime.”
Twitter may not be real life, but it’s an important platform for communicating with the public here in the 2020s. And while the social media person for U.S. Strategic Command made a simple mistake, it definitely gives people less confidence in the institution. Let’s just hope the people tasked with actually launching nukes aren’t working from home with small children around. What’s this button do, Daddy?