How Activists On TikTok Shut Down The Texas Abortion Whistleblower Tip Website

TikTokers are taking action against Texas’ anti-abortion law. (Photo: TikTok)

Young activists on TikTok recently targeted Texas’ restrictive abortion law known as SB 8, calling on followers to take action by encouraging them to submit false tips to the state’s — a website created to help the putting power in the hands of citizens by allowing them to anonymously report violators of the nearly complete ban.

The law, passed in May and entered into force September 1 does not allow pregnancies in Texas to be terminated once a heartbeat is detected, which is usually around six weeks. State officials also placed the power to enforce the law in the hands of private individuals, who can sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman have an abortion, in an effort to align with the implications of Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s decision to have an abortion without excessive government restrictions.

Olivia Julianna, an 18-year-old from Fort Bend County, decided to use that to her advantage when she got a video on August 23 on TikTok and shared her idea to submit fake tips. To avoid any conflict with the app, she disguised her video with hashtags such as #makeup and #dancing and encouraged viewers to post comments that would keep the video off TikTok’s radar. She then went on to say, “It would be bad for all of you to go to…and submit a fake tip to make the website crash so women don’t get sued for abortions in Texas. And it would be even worse if your anonymous tip was about [Texas Governor] Greg Abbott. That would be bad.”

Her sarcasm made sense and people on the site started giving the exact same tips she had supposedly discouraged.

“People liked the idea,” Julianna told Yahoo Life. “It was something easy to do and accessible to those who want to make a difference but weren’t sure how to do it.”

While she couldn’t be sure the call to action would be picked up, she was inspired by an earlier prank started by TikTokers to boost turnout expectations at a June campaign rally for President Donald Trump in Tulsa, Okla.

“Last year, when President Trump ran for reelection, some TikTokers and teens sabotaged his rallies by reserving tickets and then failing to show up. That’s a very powerful example of how social media can be used to send a message. send and make a difference,” she says. When Trump showed up, his audience in Tulsa was sparse. “I felt the need to speak up about the issue because I want people here in Texas to have physical autonomy and control over their future. That should be the decision of each individual—not the government’s.”

Victoria Hammett, a fellow Gen Z political voice on the app, quickly followed Julianna’s lead by a video told her more than 754,000 followers to submit fake tips on the website. “It’s actually so nice that I’ve already sent in three tips,” Hammett responded to her own message.

Shortly after, Sean Wiggs involved to make the job a lot easier. The 20-year-old suggested creating a bot that would automatically submit an influx of fake tips. “When I saw that there was little to no security in the form of CAPTCHA, the idea of ​​using my coding knowledge came to me,” he tells Yahoo Life. “It was something I felt was within my skill set, while also helping to hide the website data.”

The next day, he took it a step further by creating an iOS shortcut that people could use to quickly implement the coding technology he was already using. “It takes five seconds,” he explained in his video. “And because it uses real-world information, it makes it harder for them to parse the data.”

Wiggs said he knew how many people took action by tracking the number of visits to his LinkTree, where the link to the iOS shortcut was present. “More than 50,000 people have access to my code,” he said Friday afternoon.

Both he and Julianna were then informed that the website had crashed through direct messages from followers and news articles they had seen online. On Sept. 2, a day after the law went into effect and just over a week after Julianna’s first call to action, GoDaddy, the company hosting the tip site, created a statement to the New York Times shared that it gave the owners of the website, Texas Right to Life, 24 hours to find a new hosting provider before the service was discontinued. Neither GoDaddy nor Texas Right to Life responded to Yahoo Life’s request for comment.

Users attempting to access the tip line will now be redirected to the Texas Right to Life website.

While the recent work of these young TikTokers has put them in the spotlight as activists, both Julianna and Wiggs have been involved in social and political movements in the past, using their social media platforms to educate and educate their Gen Z followers. activate. Both say they want to keep doing that.

“I want to continue to send a message to all politicians – to Greg Abbott, to… [Texas Lt. Governor] Dan Patrick and to anyone who wants to continue to deprive Texans and Americans of their rights and maintain their status as perpetrators of oppression — that we will not stop fighting for what we believe in,” said Julianna. “I will use my platform to emphasize their passivity, their incompetence, and their inability to have compassion or do their job. I’m a Mexican American, I’m a Texan, but the most important thing is that I’m a person – and people should always come before politics.”