With snow and ice in the forecast for the Triangle this week, schools and businesses across the state will close or delay their opening in order to keep drivers off of slick roads, and keep the good people of North Carolina safe. No one knows what this winter storm will do just yet, but the one given is that no amount of snow or ice will match the event that transpired in the Triangle area in February of 2004, long before we had any idea that a message board community could get a football coach fired by uncovering a pattern of fraud and rule-breaking within a rival university’s athletic department. Looking back on TheWolfWeb/News 14 takeover of 2004, we wish we’d known. We should have known.
TheWolfWeb.com, formerly BrentRoad.com, is a message board community for NC State students to share useful information like class and professor ratings, student events, and housing opportunities. It’s also a lively discussion board full of jokes and memes, and a breeding ground for pranks like the one they managed to pull off in February 2004 during a snow event that dumped nearly 7 inches of snow in Raleigh. News 14 Carolina, owned by Time Warner Cable, was the only 24 hour local news option in the Triangle area, and a trusted source for up to the minute closings and delays updates during bad weather.
It was a simpler time, well before social media really took off and reached the level where news organizations understood the power, or the humor, of the internet. News 14 Carolina saw an opportunity to make it easier for businesses to submit their closings and delays, and published a link on their website for local management to publish their own messages to be included in the 24 hour ribbon scroll on the broadcast. And that’s where it went south. At 5:39PM, TheWolfWeb user “underPSI” posted the link in the forum with the message:
On the bottom of the screen on News 14 Carolina!! It’s pretty simple, actually. Just use some common sense on what you can post, and it will run for 12 hours or until you renew it. I have my business on there already. Be sure to put that you have around 50 or so employees for the business you make up or else they won’t show it. Try it. Be creative. It’s pretty neat.
Immediately, the power of this information was recognized.
Within moments, businesses across the entire region starting shutting down operations. First, it was Colonel Angus Chicken. Then h4x0r3d Computer Services. Next, OMFG Technologies, followed by The Sausage Factory. Each new cycle of the closings and delays scroll brought new announcements.
Once it became obvious that no one was on the other end vetting these announcements, things got crazy.
The best part? It wasn’t until the nerds got involved that News 14 Carolina figured out the scam.
The jig was up.
The message board attempted to move on to WRAL, but a poster reported back that a letter on company letterhead was required to receive a secure password to post closings and delays. News 14 Carolina put in some additional security around their closings and delays as well, but to cap off the night, one final announcement from TheWolfWeb somehow snuck in. And it was perfect.
News 14 Carolina is still going strong, serving up local news on a 24 hour repeating cycle to most metro areas in North Carolina. The posters from TWW? No one knows for sure. Some of them are probably working for you. You may have even married one. But those pranks are long behind them, I’m sure. There’s no way they’re still spending their time on the internet causing havoc, like for example, finding a very unfavorable published transcript belonging to Julius Peppers on a public UNC web page. OR ARE THEY?!?!?!