Gen Z organization is recruiting people to flood anti-abortion websites over leaked draft advisory that would overthrow Roe
Victoria Hammett was blundering while watching a live broadcast of the Met Gala on Monday night when she saw the news.
Within minutes, Hammett, 23, deputy executive director of nonprofit activist group Gen-Z for Change, was planning how she and others might fight back. The group is made up of members of Generation Z, who Research bench defined as anyone born after 1997.
“We were all texting each other immediately,” Hammett said. “We set up a Zoom call…then immediately got to work figuring out what we could do to help.”
Since its formation in 2020, Gen-Z for Change has been part of a host of youth-led activist groups and movements to challenge what they perceive to be the disenfranchisement of their rights and protections.
In recent years, groups like March for Our Lives, which advocates for gun law reform, and the Sunrise Movement, which seeks to raise awareness of climate change, have been led by Generation Z, also known as name of zoomers, to create the change that young progressives feel. will create a better future. Organizations that have a strong social media presence are more adept at using the internet in ways that their older counterparts are typically less experienced.
From Monday evening to Tuesday morning, Gen-Z for Change had already posted three TikTok videos about the draft notice, explaining to its followers what the news entails and how people can get involved in the protest. The three videos have racked up over 2 million views collectively.
News of the draft advisory didn’t come as a total shock to Gen-Z for Change, Hammett said. She said that after the closing arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case at the heart of the draft notice, the organization was already gearing up for June, when she thinks Roe v. Wade could be officially overturned.
The organization first plan of action: educating its more than 1.4 million TikTok followers on what the news could mean for abortion rights. Next: Recruit coders to help build systems that could automatically overwhelm future anti-abortion rights monitoring websites with false information — even if those websites haven’t been created yet.
“As these lines of advice appear, we hope we remove all of these lines of advice,” Hammett said.
Hammett said Gen-Z for Change expects that in states where abortion may be banned, a flurry of websites will be used in some to report women having illegal abortions. Although the websites aren’t currently active — and likely haven’t been created yet — the organization is preemptively recruiting coders to take them down if they appear.
The websites that Gen-Z for Change plans to target include watchdog websites and tip lines designed to report people who are having abortions to authorities if federal abortion protections are gone. The programs its recruited coders could create range from imaginary reports automatically submitted en masse to images of cartoon characters, which could overwhelm servers and cause sites to crash, rendering them useless.
Sofia Ongele, Gen-Z for Change’s digital strategy coordinator, has used this tactic many times.
“Our community recognizes that injustice anywhere breeds injustice everywhere,” she said. “Whenever we see a whistleblower line, we have the technology to help people blast them” with messages.
Previously, she had coded a site that users could access to send a automatically generated message to members of Congress which appeared to support the Capitol Riot on January 6, as well as a bot that spammed a California City Council in support of a decision to commemorate two school shooting victims.
In January she created a code that allowed people to spam an email tip line in Virginia, which was set up for parents to report if they thought their children were learning critical race theory. Ongele’s code allowed people to spam the whistleblower line with the “Bee Movie” movie script and song lyrics like “WAP.”
The tools’ success, Ongele said, relies on Gen-Z for Change supporters actually using the tools, which she says makes protests accessible to those who don’t know how to help the cause.
Gen-Z for Change was formed around the 2020 Presidential Election to motivate young voters and inspire people of voting age and younger people to get involved in electing Democrats and promoting progressive policies.
The group started out as a TikTok account, where members could post content about the election and issues dear to some zoomers. Today, Gen-Z for Change is a non-profit organization offering internships; specific guides for young people, such as tips for talking to parents about vaccinations; and office hours to meet subscribers.
Since its inception after the first presidential debate of 2020, it has amassed over 1.4 million followers on TikTok.
Recently, Gen-Z for Change made headlines when the Washington Post reported that the group had been briefed by the Biden administration on the conflict in Ukraine and was helping to advise the administration on the platform’s top influencers for spreading information.
The organization has also taken on groups of whistleblowers against abortion rights.
We’re all incredibly upset, but we all want to know what we can do to help
-Victoria Hammett, deputy executive director of Gen-Z For Change
In September, Zoomers, including members of Gen-Z for Change, flooded an information line set up by the organization Texas Right to Life (intended to receive anonymous advice to help enforce the recent law state anti-abortion) with Shrek porn and other deliberately false information to make the line inaccessible to its creators.
“It ended up being extremely successful,” Hammett said. “The website ended up being unavailable for a while and then… GoDaddy, the provider of the website, decided to no longer host the website.”
Gen-Z for Change’s position that abortion rights should be protected is not a fringe belief among the age group. In an NBC News poll in September, 65% of zoomers and millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 said they thought abortion should be legal.
The damning advice lines have become a protest tactic among zoomers and social media users. Progressive activists have requested tickets to a rally for President Donald Trump in June 2020, which they say resulted in low turnout. Other factors, like the coronavirus pandemic, likely played a role in the low turnout.
Since then, the strategy has become a common form of protest.
Ongele said many Zoomers engage in such online protests because they feel pessimistic about the future and find comfort in how little they are able to do to fight back.
“It’s very easy to get discouraged and be a bit nihilistic, and I don’t blame people for that because it can be really dehumanizing to see your rights on the chopping block,” she said.
Hammett said she hopes what young people are feeling now will motivate them to register to vote and, eventually, get them to the polls in November.
“A lot of people are feeling helpless right now, and they want to know what they can do, and the silver lining in all of this is that they can do a lot.”
CORRECTION (May 3, 2022, 5:03 p.m.): A previous version of this article misstated the age of Victoria Hammett, Deputy Executive Director of Gen Z for Change. She’s 23, not 21.