“We need to do it:‘ Meet the Texas teenager who helped sabotage a line of advice against abortion

When an anti-abortion group last week created a “life-giving” website that encouraged people to anonymously report violations of the new six-week abortion ban in Texas, a group of jeans politically active noticed a potentially fatal flaw.

“They’re trying to use the Internet to retaliate against people who were raised on the Internet,” said Olivia Julianna, an 18-year-old student and Sugar Land activist who is part of the leadership of a group called “Gen Z- For exchange “. The group was formerly known as “TikTok for Biden”.

Olivia, who only has her first and second name on social media for security reasons, said the goal was clear: “This website, if we can get in touch with them in some way, if we can to prevent even a woman from having a lawsuit filed against her or to waste a second of her time, we have to do it. “

The suggestion site was meant to help enforce Senate Bill 8, the Texas law that went into effect earlier this month that prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before most of women know they are pregnant.

The law has so far prevented the courts from blocking it because the government does not enforce it. Instead, it puts enforcement measures in the hands of any private citizen who wants to sue an abortion provider or others who “help or incite” someone to obtain an illegal abortion, with a possible reward of ‘at least $ 10,000 per demand.

Olivia was one of the young left-wing activists who immediately went to social media to sabotage the site by flooding it with false reports and other information – some suggested she was anti-governor. Say by Greg Abbott. Others recommended answers outside the wall or nonsense.

She and other members of Generation Z-For Change (Generation Z is usually defined as those now 18 to 24 years old) quickly get to work.

“It would be very, very bad and morally wrong to go to ProLifeWhistleblower.com and send out anonymous advice that is false,” Olivia sarcastically told more than 137,000 followers in a video she posted Aug. 23. a TikTok. “It would be even worse if your anonymous advice was about Greg Abbott.”

Another popular content creator and executive deputy director of Gen Z-For Change, 22-year-old Victoria Hammett, watched her video and found it “absolutely brilliant” and encouraged her followers to do the same.

“Wouldn’t it be so terrible if we sent a bunch of fake tips and crashed the site?” said in a TikTok that he has liked more than 240,000 times.

Olivia said she was inspired by a similar campaign launched by TikTokers in June 2020 when users, many of them teenagers, joked at a rally for former President Donald Trump by falsely responding to thousands of tickets. Despite more than a million registrations, turnout was about 6,200, considerably lower than expected, which the activists achieved as a success.

“I’ve seen more organization and passion from young people in the last two years than from adults all my life,” Olivia said, the content of her social media focuses on Texas and national politics. “I am 18 years old and I have 120,000 followers on TikTok and I have had millions and millions of views. I have real politicians following me on social media platforms. They are using us in their campaigns; they use us to market young people and get them involved in voting. “

Other heavy social media users had pretty much the same idea simultaneously, and the fake tips soon flooded the tip site launched by Texas Right to Life.

Some saboteurs used coding skills to further drive the idea of ​​false complaint by creating scripts that would archive reports repeatedly with random information.

Olivia said she originally heard about the false complaint idea from her friend Kolleen Whitford, a 32-year-old music sponsorship account manager who tweets about Texas politics.

The speed of the move demonstrates the power Generation Z can have in changing larger political conversations, Whitford said. “Generation Z really helped light fires and not just Generation Z agreed with them.”

Immediate results

TikTok For Biden, which was launched in October 2020 and then formally partnered with the Biden Campaign, was made up of more than 300 creators with a combined following of more than 150 million people, said the executive director Aidan Kohn-Murphy, 17, who helped found the group.

“Our job during the election was just the beginning because our goal was not to choose Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The goal was to use our platform to create some kind of social change, ”Kohn-Murphy said.

Now the group has expanded to about 500 creators with a combined following of over 400 million people.

“We knew TikTok was the most effective way to reach young people quickly,” Kohn-Murphy said. “The TikTok algorithm works in a way that other apps don’t, as you can post something and get your followers to post something, go to bed and wake up in the morning and it has 10 million views. it can happen to TikTok that it really can’t happen to Instagram or Twitter ”.

While about a third of the group’s members are under 18 and unable to vote, that doesn’t stop them from wanting to act in any way possible to advance progressive causes, he said.

The Z-For Change generation caught the attention of former state Sen. Wendy Davis, who is known for her 13-hour influence on an anti-abortion bill in 2013. Davis now runs an organization without for-profit, Deeds Not Words, which seeks to help cultivate the next generation of young leaders.

“I think it’s such a smart and wonderfully appropriate way for young people to exercise their power,” Davis said in an interview Tuesday.

A 2021 Pew Research survey found that 67% of adults under the age of 30 believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Given how much they’ve grown with the Internet and social media, it’s no wonder their activism is taking place online, said Amanda E. Scott, a tenured English professor at Texas State University who has studied the differences. generational in participation methods.

“Young people have a more sophisticated relationship with communicative literacy in general,” Scott said. “They have an amazing and nuanced handling. Especially in the last three years, they seem to be able to break (or in some cases more radically) the artificiality of political pandering ”.

GoDaddy leaves

Currently, the Texas Right to Life whistleblower website is not working. Instead, it redirects to the organization’s main website as the group searches for a new hosting and domain service, spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz said. The new website will eventually contain “new security protocols to protect our users,” he said.

On Friday, GoDaddy, the site’s former Internet hosting service, ended its relationship with Texas Right to Life, leaning on reports of pressure and abuse from activists. The company said it did so because the group violated its terms of service, which prohibit the collection of personal data without the written consent of someone.

“I think the pro-abortion crowd sees the website as a symbol of the law and they are trying to overthrow it because they can’t remove the law,” Schwartz said. “They can’t stop the fact that we save about 100 premature babies a day. That’s why they try to cancel us, but it doesn’t work. “

Schwartz added that scripts that send various fake reports to the website could be prosecuted as crimes.

Younger generations might lean to the left, but Schwartz said on the subject of abortion he believes they are going to the right.

“We have a vibrant youth movement in favor of life,” he said. “We grew up with sonograms and we heard the heartbeat and we were able to see this life in real time and get to know it … That’s why younger people become more pro-life.”

For Olivia, though, it doesn’t matter that fake reports can’t change the policy. Instead, it’s the biggest message, she said.

“I am a fourth generation Texan. I have lived here all my life. I am also Mexican-American, ”he said. “I and all the other women and immigrants, Mexican Americans and people of color and Generation Z of Texas will not stop until these people who are trying to take away our autonomy and our rights are out of office.”

“We grew up in Divergent and Hunger Games and all that stuff,” Olivia said, referring to dystopian books and movies. “They taught us to fight for what we believe in. To stand up for what we believe is right. So now we’re doing it.”

taylor.goldenstein@chron.com

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