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Trump, Liverpool Billboard Hacks: A Study in Contrasts

Call it a tale of two billboards: wildly divided in tone and substance, one spewing political vitriol and the other offering a gentle reminder tinged with city pride.

Let’s start with the fun stuff: Houston commuters got an eyeful this week when hackers broke into an electronic road sign along the Interstate in the Texas city. They painted a rather vulgar picture, referencing controversial comments from late-night host Stephen Colbert about President Donald Trump’s anatomy and Vladimir Putin.

To quote my Texan grandma: Goodness gracious!

Another message was tamer, noting: “Impeach Trump #LSSC,” with the hashtag referring to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

“An ALARMING anti-Trump message displayed on Heights Blvd. and Waugh. Someone hacked the sign overnight. Profanity cropped out,” tweeted Cathy Hernandez of NBC affiliate KPRC2, who originally uploaded a video clip of the hacked road sign.

The board was switched off in pretty short order, leaving some in my circle to point out that Texas is, after all, a red state—though it should be noted that Houston is blue, and has been, like most other cities in Texas, for quite some time.

Turning the sign off solved this one issue, there’s no guarantee that would stop anti-Trumpers from striking again, somewhere else, on another sign. Houston also is not alone in the Lone Star State in being treated to this kind of citizen protest: A Dallas sign was hacked a few months ago to display a geographically relevant message: "Donald Trump is a shape-shifting lizard."

Texas has a lot of lizards.

Meanwhile, across the pond, a decidedly more genteel version of a billboard hack played out in Liverpool.

According to the Liverpool Echo (which, adorably, features a Liver bird on the masthead holding a rolled-up scroll—love it!), a digital sign at the Liverpool ONE shopping center was infiltrated by very polite hackers.

The cheeky message simply read: “We suggest you improve your security. Sincerely, your friendly neighbourhood hackers. #JFT96.”

Not to bring the scene down, but for those American readers out there, the hashtag is a reference to the Liverpool FC fans killed in the Hillsborough horror in 1989, the worst disaster in English sports history.

But on a lighter note, the “sincerely” is almost as adorbs as the Echo’s Liver bird.

The screen was shut down, and none of the other screens in the mall were affected. The Echo reported that the culprits were probably right there, doing their thing in close proximity. Liverpool ONE pledged to investigate but noted the hack seemed to be good-natured.

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