The most shared story in my Twitter feed yesterday was undoubtedly the New York Times’ tale
of how TikTok users and K-pop fans barraged the ticketing system for Donald Trump’s Saturday rally in Tulsa with fake bookings.
TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music groups claimed to have registered potentially hundreds of thousands of tickets for Mr. Trump’s campaign rally as a prank. After the Trump campaign’s official account @TeamTrump posted a tweet asking supporters to register for free tickets using their phones on June 11, K-pop fan accounts began sharing the information with followers, encouraging them to register for the rally — and then not show.
The trend quickly spread on TikTok, where videos with millions of views instructed viewers to do the same, as CNN reported on Tuesday. “Oh no, I signed up for a Trump rally, and I can’t go,” one woman joked, along with a fake cough, in a TikTok posted on June 15.
The move was celebrated as an epic piece of modern day protest. And indeed, it’s a very 2020 story.
Trump’s rally was a relatively quiet affair. With fewer than 7,000 ticketed attendees, the arena was more than half empty. But as some have pointed out
, there was no limit on the number of people who could book tickets, so it’s not like the protesters stopped any true fans from attending. Indeed, a more realistic reason for the lack of attendees is a combination of Trump’s unpopularity, and fears of Covid-19.
There’s an argument that the protest at least messed up the collection of data about Trump fans. That is definitely true. And if there’s no easy way of cleaning that data up, it’s a bad outcome for the Trump campaign.
But as sociologist Zeynep Tufekci notes
, this form of protest is absolutely going to be used again, and not always against Trump:
Instead of short-term celebration of whatever happens to please one group, people should think: Wait how will this be weaponized by someone else? (It will). What will happen to the public sphere? How could we design things for healthier outcomes no matter who the weaponizers are?
Politicians and activists of all stripes will now likely have their events disrupted by fake registrations. Even if the result is mild disruption, it’ll be a fresh problem to deal with.
So celebrate the ingenuity of young activists if you like, but prepare to see the same coming back at the politicians you support soon enough.