An email fail on Wednesday evening at the University College London (UCL) has left all 29,000 thousand students at the institution able to email one another—resulting in thousands and thousands of spam messages being sent overnight, as well as subscriptions for everything from the Sarah Palin channel to hardcore pornography.
Dubbed #Bellogate, it all began with an email allegedly from university provost Michael Arthur—though student tabloid The Tab reports that it was an impostor. The email was a single word—“bello!”—and was sent out to a student-wide mailing list to the everyone in the nearly 30,000-strong student population.
From there it spiralled out of control; reply-all messages abounded, the address was subscribed to all manner of mailing lists, and the student body lost its collective mind. As of Thursday morning, UCL students and faculty members had received almost 3,000 emails.
Shoutout to whoever's responsible for #bellogate! Nothing like waking up to 3000 emails— Еmili (@Emili_Stevenson) October 9, 2014
Some of the initial reply-all responses didn’t veer far from the script, opting just for a “bello!”
Others were particularly uninspired.
Then people got a bit more risqué.
The opportunity was seized to rekindle some old university student rivalries.
Kings College just got an application from All UCL Students. They have to accept us, we got into UCL. #bellogate— Naomi Barton (@naomi0_0barton) October 8, 2014
To the KCL student who emailed all 26k students of UCL just to ask if our emails were fixed yet - you're a prize tool. #bellogate— Victoria (@VictoriaMonro) October 9, 2014
Parody Twitter accounts sprang up.
Bello world!— BELLO (@UCLBello) October 8, 2014
Sports fans got in on the action.
As did One Directioners.
And politics geeks.
Tone varied wildly between messages.
Meanwhile, official UCL administration emails were either compromised or impersonated.
Memes ricocheted across the Twittersphere.
As did puns.
Checked my emails this morning, now I'm belloing with rage #bellogate— Jon Wright (@JonSnurrbart) October 9, 2014
The frenzied activity pushed the hashtag #bellogate to the top of the U.K.-wide Twitter trending charts overnight.
#bellogate is trending No.1 in the UK. At this point, UCL more or less has to capitalise on it and adapt all publicity to be bello based— The Cheese Grater (@UCLCheeseGrater) October 9, 2014
Students then decided to bring bello into the real world.
Some took the opportunity to revel in the schadenfreude of it all.
Love it that UCL is trending through #bellogate rather than its recent Nobel prize....— Matthew Ingleby (@matthewingleby) October 9, 2014
PhD student Carrie Behar has been one of the few voices of reason.
Some students are taking a rational approach to the problem.
UCL Political Theory lecturer Guy Aitchison, meanwhile, was particularly unimpressed by the entire situation.
If anything, the #bellogate UCL email hack flooding my inbox has exposed the dearth of witty one-liners among today's students. Poor show.— GuyAitchison (@GuyAitchison) October 9, 2014
Irony of people replying all to tell everyone else to "Stop replying all" does get a little tiring after 2000 spam emails...#bellogate— GuyAitchison (@GuyAitchison) October 9, 2014
Not all the emails were harmless fun, as a tweet from another PhD student reveals.
With over 2,000 juvenile, racist and homophobic emails sent overnight it feels a bad time to email my students. #bellogate— Ms Anonymous (@secretlondon) October 9, 2014
A statement issued by UCL on Monday morning acknowledged the “urgent problems with all student email—but significantly underestimates the scale of the problem.
UPDATE: The email address has been blocked and #Bellogate is officially over, a current UCL student has confirmed to the Daily Dot—and recriminations and finger-pointing have already begun.
The provost is currently traveling, the Daily Dot has been informed, and is not immediately available for comment.
Photo via William Wilkins / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)