Social media users are signing up for tickets to President Trump’s rally in New Hampshire this weekend — with no intention of showing up.
It appears to be another effort to troll the Trump campaign and create a repeat of the scene in Tulsa, when teenage TikTok users and young fans of K-pop, or Korean pop music, said their thousands of fake registrations prompted the campaign to create space for an overflow crowd that did not materialize.
Despite a still-raging coronavirus pandemic, Trump has returned to the campaign trail and said last week that he plans to hold a rally in Portsmouth, N.H., on Saturday. In response, Twitter users who oppose Trump have been urging their followers to sign up for tickets to the rally, which simply requires users to hand over a few personal details in order to register.
Northeastern University rising sophomore Aisha Khan is among those who signed up for tickets for the upcoming rally with no intention of going. She said she got the idea scrolling through the social media app TikTok and seeing others signing up for tickets. And after seeing what happened in Tulsa on June 20, she said she hoped to do her part locally.
“The goal is to make sure Trump’s turnout is low and that he is not given a bigger platform during his rallies,” she told the Globe over Twitter on Monday.
At Trump’s first rally since the coronavirus hit the United States earlier this year, he spoke to a crowd of about 6,200, according to the Tulsa Fire Department, far fewer than the venue’s roughly 19,000-person capacity.
While the Trump campaign’s ticket system does not allow users to reserve seats for the rally, and admits attendees on a first-come, first-served basis, a flood of fake signups could cause event organizers to misjudge the level of enthusiasm. Prior to the Tulsa rally, the campaign had boasted of ticket sign-ups in the hundreds of thousands and set up an overflow stage, where Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were expected to speak before the main event. The overflow event was canceled when the expected crowd did not show up.
One tweet, from former Long Island, N.Y., lawmaker and progressive activist Jon Cooper, urged his more than 500,000 Twitter followers to sign up for tickets and generated more than 17,000 retweets and nearly 34,000 likes as of Tuesday.
I just ordered two tickets for Trump’s MAGA rally on July 11 in Portsmouth, NH. Too bad I won’t be attending! It took me just 30 seconds to register. It would be a real shame if thousands of other people who didn't intend to show signed up for tickets. 😉https://t.co/wZgbmzJ8tX pic.twitter.com/RoXSz3qN70— Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@joncoopertweets) July 6, 2020
“The impetus was the teens on TikTok and K-Pop fans that struck a blow for social activism when they joined forces several weeks ago to tank Trump’s first campaign rally in Tulsa,” Cooper told the Globe in an interview. “I think it will be really interesting to see if that feat can be repeated in New Hampshire.”
Though he acknowledged that the Trump campaign is likely to recalibrate its attendance expectations following the last rally, the influx of false signups could harm the campaign’s efforts to build an accurate database of supporters. Campaigns often request personal information from those who sign up for events in an effort to identify potential voters.
Indeed, campaign manager Brad Parscale boasted ahead of the Tulsa rally that the campaign had seen its “biggest data haul and rally signup of all time.”
Cooper said the effort by social media users “completely skews that.”
“Now that members of the resistance can get more creative using social media, I think it’s going to be increasingly difficult to hold a successful rally going forward,” he said. The “resistance” is an informal moniker adopted by anti-Trump activists.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a Globe request for comment, but has forcefully pushed back on the idea that false signups affect the campaign.
“Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don’t know what they’re talking about or how our rallies work,” Parscale said in a press release following the Tulsa rally.
Parscale said the campaign weeds out fake registrations and that they did not factor into the expected rally size.
It remains unclear how much the false signups affected the campaign’s attendance expectations in Tulsa. The decision to make masks optional and discourage social distancing may also have contributed to the low turnout, and there are signs the campaign is taking steps to prevent the same scene from playing out in New Hampshire. Unlike the Tulsa event, the Portsmouth rally is scheduled to take place at an outdoor venue and event attendees will be “strongly encouraged” to wear face masks, the Trump campaign said in a news release announcing the rally.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, said Monday that it’s “imperative” for rally attendees to wear masks on Saturday.
But, just like at the Tulsa rally, the Trump campaign is asking attendees to sign a waiver preventing them from holding the campaign responsible should anyone contract COVID-19 at the event.
“By registering for this event, you understand and expressly acknowledge that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the waiver states.