Coming into Saturday’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Donald Trump proudly boasted that over one million people had signed up for tickets. But when the day actually came, there were plenty of empty seats to be found inside the arena, and literally not one person showed up for the outdoor events. Trump’s campaign blamed the low attendance on protestors who blocked the entrance to the arena. However, as the New York Times reports, the inflated ticket requests may have been the direct result of a prank carried out by K-pop fans.
K-pop fans, along with their allies on TikTok, worked together to register potentially hundreds of thousands of fake ticket requests as a prank. One of the organizers behind the prank, a YouTube host named Elijah Daniel, told the Times that “It spread mostly through Alt TikTok — we kept it on the quiet side where people do pranks and a lot of activism. K-pop Twitter and Alt TikTok have a good alliance where they spread information amongst each other very quickly. They all know the algorithms and how they can boost videos to get where they want.”
Several young activists created video encouraging other K-pop fans and TikTok users to request tickets using fake names and phone numbers, and even offered instructions on how to generate phone numbers using Google Voice and other internet-connected phone services.
“We all know the Trump campaign feeds on data, they are constantly mining these rallies for data,” Mary Jo Laupp, a former employee of Pete Buttigieg’s campaign for president, told the Times. “Feeding them false data was a bonus. The data they think they have, the data they are collecting from this rally, isn’t accurate.”
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lauded the K-pop fans on Twitter. In a tweet aimed at Trump’s campaign manager, AOC wrote, “You just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID.”
When not helping to propel BTS and other k-pop groups to the top of music charts, the fanbase has become increasingly involved in social activism. Last month, fans banded together to crash an app used by the Dallas Police Department and reclaimed racist hashtags like #WhiteLivesMatter.
Trump rally vs BTS stadium tour at the Rose Bowl 🤭 thank you kpop stans and tiktok users pic.twitter.com/V2TJ8NAJzN
— j (@riotpenguins) June 21, 2020