If you have an email account linked up to any kind of service with the New York Times, even to read the free stuff, you probably got an email today that looked a lot like this:
Looks pretty legit to me. It was even sent from email@example.com, which is a pretty valid sounding email address. There's even all that legalese small print at the bottom. But... I don't subscribe to NY Times. I have an account with them so I can occasional comment on articles, but I am on the cold side of their paywall so I wasn't really sure what to make of this email. I almost wondered if I was supposed to be mistakenly receiving the New York Times while on someone else's dime and so I immediately strategized how I might take advantage of this mistake. Three seconds later, however, I ignored the email. Then it became clear that lots of other people received this email too much to other recipients' confusion. Of course, mass confusion amounts to speculation that The Times' database got hacked.
This email was not sent from The New York Times. If you received it, please delete it.
In other words, nobody knows what's going on and so chaos is on our doorstep.
Three hours later, however, The Times posted an explanation of the whole snafu in which they own up to being the authors of this spam.
The New York Times said it accidentally sent e-mails on Wednesday to more than eight million people who had shared their information with the company, erroneously informing them they had canceled home delivery of the newspaper.
The Times Company, which initially mischaracterized the mishap as spam, apologized for sending the e-mails. The 8.6 million readers who received the e-mails represent a wide cross-section of readers who had given their e-mails to the newspaper in the past, said a Times Company spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy.
“We regret that the error was made, but no one’s security has been compromised,” she said.
At nearly the same time, The Times issued the following email to the recipients of the confusing email from earlier today:
Actually, it's not intriguing at all. It's the anti-intrigue: turns out that it was a Times employee that accidentally sent the email, which resolves the question of whether it was Epsilon Interactive, the service used by The Times to interact with subscribers, that got hacked. I'd hate to be the poor intern (I'm presuming it's an intern) who accidentally emailed millions of people that has to answer for this anti-event. It may be the employee's fault that the readers got an erroneous email, but how hard is it for readers to dismiss a strange email and send it to the Trash bin? Are people really that easily perplexed by questions for which they already know the answer? No, you don't subscribe to The Times, then you probably still don't subscribe to The Times. Yet people got so confused and ensnared on the mystery of whether or not they could actually remember if they were subscribed to The New York Times in the first place so, as if victims of a bewitching goblin spell, they could not bring themselves to snap out of it and simply click Delete. And we'd never have to think about this moment ever again. It would've been so easy and yet, here we are at the end of the work day and people are still talking about it. Like me. So it goes.