September 23, 2023

On GitHub, a website for sharing and collaborating on software code, another programmer, Jonathan Díaz, posted a script and posted a link on Thursday to a new app, Pro-Life Buster, that allowed people to automatically tag the Texas website with “fake “Tips to spam.” The developer wrote that the script was a way of breaking the law because “it is none of our business to know about people’s abortions.”

By Thursday evening, the app showed that 1,000 new reports had been shared.

Mr Díaz said the app existed to flood the website with authentic-looking but fabricated data. “The goal is to waste these people’s time and resources so that they wake up and realize that this effort is not worth their time,” he said on Friday.

These techniques, known as “hacktivism”, have become more and more popular. Last year, TikTok teenagers and Korean pop music fans flooded a rally website for former President Donald J. Trump with fake registrations – and then never showed up again, leaving thousands of seats conspicuously empty. Anonymous, the loose hacking collective, has protested the guidelines of the Vatican, CIA and others by flooding their websites with junk traffic to force them offline.

Kim Schwartz, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life, denied that the group’s website had been heaped with fake news. “We knew this was going to happen and we were prepared,” she said. “Activists tried to spam and disable the site for a week and failed.”

Even so, the group’s website seemed to regularly buckle on Thursday and fall under the burden of reports, as screenshots on Reddit and other websites show. Separately, late Friday a judge in Travis County, Texas issued an injunction against Texas’ right to life that prevented it from suing Planned Parenthood and enforcing abortion restrictions.

To curb the flood of automated reports on its website, the administrators of Texas Right to Life added a new version of a captcha, a program that attempts to extract real human responses from automated computer reports.

But some hacktivists persisted. One posted a screenshot of a fake report on Reddit pointing to some of Marvel’s Avengers as abortion seekers. People posted screenshots of other fake tips on Twitter. One user reported sarcastically that he wanted to retroactively abort his 30-year-old son, who apparently did not want to leave the house.