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TikTok users and K-pop fans say they wrecked Trump's Tulsa rally

Internet-savvy teens are a force to be reckoned with.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
June 21, 2020
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The upper section of the arena is seen partially empty as US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. - Hundreds of supporters lined up early for Donald Trump's first political rally in months, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

It’s no secret that President Trump’s Tulsa rally on June 20th had attendance far short of his campaign’s expectations, but that might have been due in part to a relatively new force in politics: internet-savvy teens. As the New York Times and Vulture have reported, TikTok users and K-pop fans say they registered massive amounts of free tickets in the run-up to the rally to artificially pump up attendance expectations and create an inevitable disappointment. Many were careful to delete social posts to prevent Trump’s campaign from catching wind of the ploy, and at least some used internet phone numbers to feed the campaign junk data.

Instagram and Snapchat users are also believed to have played a role.

It’s unclear exactly how much of an impact these social media efforts had, since COVID-19 may have kept many at home regardless. However, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale had clearly accepted inflated attendance numbers when he boasted of over 1 million ticket requests on June 15th, and the team had prepared an overflow section (complete with an additional speech) that never got used.

This isn’t the first time the K-pop crowd has used its collective online energy in the political arena. It recently flooded racist Twitter hashtags with fancams (fan footage of celebrities) at the height of Black Lives Matter protests, effectively drowning out hateful messages. This, however, is on another level. If early evidence holds true, some of the social media world’s youngest audience may have skewed Trump’s campaign (or rendered its attendance guidance useless) without leaving home.

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