Coder Creates iPhone Shortcut for Activists to Disrupt Texas Anti-Abortion Website
A coder is using TikTok to encourage others to resist Texas' anti-abortion law.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court voted not to block a highly restrictive Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, allowing the law to remain in place for now.
With their decision, abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — before many women know they are pregnant — are banned in the state, making it the most restrictive abortion law in the country and essentially eliminating the rights established in Roe v. Wade.
Under the law, private citizens can also sue abortion providers whom they suspect illegally performed an abortion after six weeks or anyone who aided in an abortion, including driving someone to a clinic or helping them with the cost. If the lawsuit is successful, they will be awarded a minimum of $10,000.
Now, Sean Black — a TikTok user who goes by "black_madness21" on the social video sharing app — crafted a way to overwhelm the website created by Texas Right to Life, where users can report abortion providers.
In his first video shared on TikTok, Black said that his system was able to send a fake tip to the Texas website around every 10 to 15 seconds. In a second video, Black noted that the system then sent about 300 tips, before the website blocked his IP address.
To get around being unable to send in more tips, Black then created an iOS shortcut so anyone with an iPhone can disrupt the Texas Right to Life website.
The mobile shortcut finds a random city, county and zip code within the state and fills out other required information as needed, before it sends it all through to the site. "Because it uses realistic information, it makes it harder for them to parse their data," Black explains in the clip.
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Speaking with VICE's technology vertical, Motherboard, Black said that the idea for creating the system to overwhelm the anti-abortion website with fake tips came from fellow TikTok user @victoriahammett.
"Her video about the website inspired the idea for automation," he said. "The details were hammered out by myself though."
Motherboard tested out the new shortcut prompt for iPhone users and confirmed that it does indeed do what Black promised it would. However, the outlet noted that the site now displays a captcha, which is most likely an attempt to stop automated submissions. But as long as users fill out the captcha first, they can still run the shortcut crafted by Black.
"To me the McCarthyism era tactics of turning neighbors against each other over a bill I feel is a violation of Roe V Wade is unacceptable," Black added in a statement to the outlet. "There are people on TikTok using their platform to educate and do their part. I believe this is me doing mine."