September 3, 2021
TikTok coder creates iPhone shortcut to send Texas abortion whistleblower site fake tips
A recently passed Texas law banning women from having an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy is getting some resistance—from TikTok.
Sean Black, an activist who goes by "black_madness21" on TikTok, created a technological way to oppose enforcement of the law, which relies on private citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Initially, he wrote some computer code to constantly input false data into the Texas Right to Life organization's Pro-Life Whistleblower website, created to take anonymous tips about potential lawbreakers. The script uploaded about 300 entries before the site blocked his IP address, Black says in a video on TikTok.
"But then I started thinking, 'What if I made this a bit easier for everybody,'" he said in the video. So he created an iOS shortcut users of Apple devices can download that automatically fills in the site's form. It picks a random Texas city, county and zip code and fills in and submits the form, he said.
"Because it uses realistic information, it makes it harder for them to parse through the data," Black said in the video.
News of Black's invention was welcomed by some on Twitter. "Gotta love the kids!" one person tweeted.
Others have tried to get in on the action by manually submitting fake reports, with one Twitter user urging others to retweet the idea and "to make Good Trouble," citing the advice of the late Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights activist who passed away in 2020.
The Texas Right to Life organization says its site has been bombarded but is still operational. The group "completely anticipated this and were prepared for all the trolls coming to the website," Kimberlyn Schwartz, the group's director of media and communication, told U.S. TODAY in an email.
"Yes, pro-abortion advocates have been trying to crash the site for over a week and have failed," she said. "You might see some people online saying it crashed, but that's not true. They can't access it because their IPs are getting blocked."
The website also on Thursday displayed a captcha, which requires you to type in some characters shown before you can fill in a form, according to Motherboard, which reported on Black's tech trick. By completing the captcha, you can then run the shortcut. (Motherboard also said users had to turn on "Allow Untrusted Shortcuts" in settings of your iOS device.)
Black told Motherboard he was inspired by TikTok friend @victoriahammett who suggested submitting fake tips. He also said that he is "working on a solution" for the captcha "hurdle."
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