Something Happened to the MBTA’s Twitter Handle

Update: Regular service at @MBTA has resumed.

mbta twitter

MBTA photo by Meredith Foley

Update: The MBTA has reclaimed its old Twitter handle, @MBTA, as of late Tuesday morning. Spokesman Joe Pesaturo says it’s not clear what happened “at this time.”

Earlier: The MBTA’s Twitter handle is temporarily out of service today, as the agency has, for reasons unknown, ditched @MBTA and switched to @MBTATRANSIT.

A tweet Tuesday morning referred to the incident as the result of “technical difficulties.”

The new all-caps moniker came as a surprise when it emerged at some point yesterday, says T spokesman Joe Pesaturo. He says the T has asked Twitter to look into “Why the account name was changed.” What happened remains unclear. But, he says, “at this time, there is no evidence to suggest” the account has been hacked.

An email to Twitter’s press office was not immediately returned.

Trolls looking to cash in on an oversight need not get any smart ideas. The MBTA handle is not available.

This isn’t the first time the T has had to use something other than its four-letter acronym on social media. The T has had control of the @MBTA handle only since September, 2013, when it switched from an account by the name of @mbtaGM.

“Social media is one of the most important tools we use to communicate directly with those who rely on the T,” then-MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott said at the time, in a press release. “Simplifying our online identity will help us deliver service alerts and other important information to even more customers.”

Then, the T had about 45,000 followers. It now has 229,000, many of whom use Twitter to alert the MBTA to problems on their commutes and get instant feedback on things like broken air conditioners, missing buses, and other disruptions. Which makes it an important resource, and also a fixture of city life that is ripe for parody.

Pesaturo also says there is no reason to believe that whatever happened to the Twitter handle yesterday had anything to do with a separate, ongoing case of online MBTA brand confusion documented earlier this year. There has, for some time, been a non-MBTA-affiliated website using the URL, which the agency urged its followers in June not to visit, but which remains active today. If you search for it on Google, the headline is a series of letters in Cyrillic, which translate to “go to this site” in Russian. Do not go to this website.