Her Campus Instagram Hack Leads to Newfound Empowerment

Illustration by Christine Ho

Jade Martinez-Pogue
National Beat Reporter

Her Campus is an online magazine with over 300 chapters in 11 different countries, aimed at empowering college-aged women through articles and content written entirely by college women themselves. On Oct. 26, the UCSB chapter’s Instagram was hacked and all content dating back until last May was erased.

“[I] woke up to a bunch of email notifications from our mail account informing us that all our log-in information had been changed,” said Catalina Fernandez, co-editor-in-chief and campus correspondent for the UCSB chapter, in an interview with The Bottom Line.

Not only were all the posts up to last May deleted, but the biography, profile picture, and page highlights were also all removed. The most disconcerting part of the hack is what the hacker had changed the username and bio to. The bio of the hacked page read, ‘Dumb b —- s who don’t have anything better to do’ and the username stated ‘So f—- dumb like Cardi B.’

“My immediate reaction was noticing the irony in the description and the biography. The whole point of our platform is to empower women and create content that is empowering,” Fernandez said. “The fact that this person who hacked our account made it a point to degrade a woman [Cardi B] in the username was completely contradictory to everything we believe.”

The hack happened around 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, with continued attempts of other users trying to get into the account until 4 a.m. The Her Campus editor-in-chiefs did not see the notifications until they woke up around 10 a.m. that morning, leaving the demeaning content up for at least eight hours.

“We’re confused about the logistics of it to be honest. But clearly, it was a very deliberate attack,” said Fernandez.

The Her Campus team immediately called Instagram and Her Campus Nationals in order to try and get their account back, and was successful after a few hours. Shortly after recovering the account, Fernandez and her Co-Editor-in-Chief Shante Boudaghi knew that the next important step was to put out a statement to their followers on Instagram relaying what had happened.

“Earlier today we experienced the hacking and erasure of content the strong and intelligent women of our chapter worked hard to create this past year,” the post read. “As women, it’s no secret that our voices are systematically and persistently distorted and policed … We stand firm in our mission to create content that embodies womanhood itself: powerful, graceful, and strong as hell.”

Her Campus was eventually able to find out who the hacker was, but does not want to name them and give them any more attention. “We think the whole point of what they were doing was trying to get some sort of attention and we don’t want to give them that satisfaction,” said Fernandez.

The point of the Instagram post was to rise above the situation and show the hacker that they would persist in their mission to empower women. 

“We were obviously frustrated and angry with the situation but we were more focused on getting back our site and informing our supporters of what had happened than trying to do a witch-hunt for this person,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez held a steady head towards the situation despite having deflated feelings towards it. “It was a combination of frustration and shock, but mostly just sadness. Having someone come in with so much malicious intent to strap away the work of women who created this content so honestly and authentically was just sad,” said Fernandez.

During the hack, UCSB Her Campus reached out to the Facebook page of Her Campus chapters nationally to explain the situation. They were astonished by the amount of support they received from multiple chapters, even some in which they had never been in contact with before.

“It was amazing because so many chapters sent their love to Her Campus UCSB. It was a really welcoming feeling of support and solidarity,” she said.

The UCSB Her Campus administrative leaders also received an immense amount of support from their new members and interns, motivating them to continue on with their goal. They took the hack as an opportunity to grow and continue putting out content that would empower and inspire.

”To have someone hack your account is an attempt to silence your voice. Even having that kind of intrusion let us know that the content that we’re making is challenging someone,” Fernandez said.

Her Campus did not feel the need to reach out to campus administration about this encroachment because they were able to recover their page after a few hours. Nationals is helping to try and get the erased content back, but chances of that happening seem low.

“While the hacking was a set-back, it really served as a revival of our mission and our voice. We’re feeling more empowered than ever because we’ve been able to get the account back, get more support, gain more followers, and have our team on board,” Fernandez said.

Her Campus persevered with their goal to empower women despite this intrusion of their page and saw it as motivation to continue putting out content that confirms their values. 

“I guess I want to thank them [the hacker] for opening our eyes up. It wasn’t an ideal situation but they really pushed us to work even harder to have our voices be even more unapologetic, sincere, and empowering,” said Fernandez. “We handled this, we’re going to keep rising above.”