Pro-choice activists opposing a new law in Texas that severely limits abortions have taken to social media to fight back against pro-life groups in the state seeking to prosecute those who violate the law.
The new law went into effect in Texas on Wednesday, and the Supreme Court later declined to halt its enforcement while its legality is sorted out in lower courts. It prevents women from seeking an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected — often before women know they're pregnant. It does not make exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
The law also allows Texans to file lawsuits against those who assist women in receiving an illegal abortion — regardless if they are connected to the case or not. Private citizens are now able to sue doctors, pro-life organizations or "any other individuals that aids or abets an illegal abortion in any way," with penalties reaching up to $10,000.
In the hopes of helping authorities enforce the law, Texas Right to Life — a group that opposed abortion — established an anonymous tip line on its website where supporters can submit the names of those who may be violating the law.
On Thursday, pro-choice activists fought back by spamming the online form, submitting thousands of phony entries to Texas Right to Life in the hopes of rendering the tip line useless.
The trend exploded on social media — Reddit threads on the topic topped thousands of comments, Twitter users went viral for providing tips on how to "poison" the group's data set, and videos of sabotage hijinks took off on TikTok.
Among those activists was Sean Black, who developed a program that submits four to six requests to the Texas Right to Life tip line every minute. He later created an iPhone shortcut so others could also spam the website.
"To me the McCarthyism era tactics of turning neighbors against each other over a bill I feel is a violation of Roe V Wade is unacceptable. There are people on TikTok using their platform to educate and do their part. I believe this is me doing mine," Black wrote to tech website Motherboard.
Earlier in the week, the Texas Right to Life tip line included an option where users could attach files to upload digital evidence for those suspected of providing illegal abortions.
By Friday afternoon, the option to add attachments had been removed from the submission form.
Texas Right to Life says its site is still operational in an email to USA Today, though the tip line has been "bombarded." Kimberlyn Schwartz, the Texas Right to Life's director of media and communication, told the newspaper that the group "completely anticipated this and were prepared for all the trolls coming to the website."