After Whistleblower Site Gets Flooded With Fake Reports, Epik Pulls the Plug

Critics of the abortion whistleblower site have been flooding it with fake reports. Shortly after, Epik pulled the plug, taking the site offline.

The anti-abortion law that launched a thousand bounty hunters is seeing a new twist. Earlier, the US Supreme Court gave the green light to what many consider an Orwellian anti-abortion law. This means that, for now, the law can be enforced. Legally, it is still possible to challenge this law in the courts, but it requires someone to be on the receiving end of a fine before it can be challenged. Otherwise, the ball may be in US president, Joe Biden’s court. Still, it’s unclear what he could do from his vantage point of the Executive Office.

The law itself is so far reaching, that it even cracks down on online free speech. As we noted in an earlier report, anyone found to be giving medical advice, regardless of whether or not it resulted in an abortion, could be subject to a fine of, at least, $10,000. This includes people posting comments online. That has many digital rights advocated and organizations concerned about this law for very good reason.

In the process, the law basically encourages mobs of bounty hunters to try and cash in on those $10,000 penalties. Some, including us, were predicting that this would flood the Internet. Within hours, a so-called “whistleblower” site was set up for people to turn in their loved ones, neighbours, and friends with the hopes that they can cash in on those $10,000 bounties. As we pointed out, this law threatens to unleash mob rule over the US, and actions taken by certain individuals pretty much actively tried to prove our point.

Of course, those people (if you can call them that), are running into some problems along the way. Some wannabe bounty hunters started to stream into Reddit and tried creating a subreddit devoted just to the bounty hunts. Reddit quickly shut the subreddit down for violating their community guidelines of, among other things, bullying and harassment.

It seems as though similar reasons are making it hard for the bounty hunting site to stay online. As we noted, GoDaddy, the original hosting provider for the site, shut that whole thing down for violations of harassment and privacy violations. The site owners then turned to Digital Ocean who also shut down the site for similar reasons. After that, the owners turned to an Epik related service which also happens to be their domain registrar. That allowed the site to have some uptime for a while.

While the site was online, TikTokkers apparently started flooding the site with fake reports and memes. The idea being that their data would get heavily polluted and render their data set unusable. From The Guardian:

“Any Texan can bring a lawsuit against an abortionist or someone aiding and abetting an abortion after six weeks,” the website reads, and those proved to be violating the law can be fined a minimum of $10,000. An online form allows anyone to submit an anonymous “report” of someone illegally obtaining an abortion, including a section where images can be uploaded for proof.

But pro-choice users had other ideas, bombarding the site with false reports and fabricated data through a campaign primarily organized on Reddit and TikTok.

Though the site was launched a month ago, the fake reports came flooding in on the eve of the bill’s enactment. One TikTok user said they had submitted 742 fake reports of the governor, Greg Abbott, getting illegal abortions.

In a tongue-in-cheek caption, the user encouraged others to do the same: “It would be a shame if TikTok crashed the ProLifeWhistleBlower website.”

Redditors said they had submitted reports blaming the state of Texas for facilitating abortions by having highways that allow people to travel to the procedure.

“Wouldn’t it be so awful if we sent in a bunch of fake tips and crashed the site? Like, Greg Abbott’s butt stinks,” one TikTok creator said.

While it may have been a fun ride to flood the site with fake data, that ride didn’t last long. Epik apparently pulled the plug on the website after receiving complaints. From Yahoo! News:

The Verge reported that late on Friday, the whistleblower website was hosted on Epik, a platform that stepped in to host other controversial domains, including Gab, social media platform Parler, and hate forum 8chan. However, the website was reportedly unavailable online on Saturday. Before going for Epik, the controversial site reportedly tried using Digital Ocean for hosting but probably violated its rules, too.

On Saturday, the website hopped hosts again and switched to BitMitigate, an Epik-owned hosting service that advertises its “sovereign” hosting services. Later on, Saturday, accessing the website reportedly threw an error that read “accessed a banned URL.” Epik also appears to have stopped hosting the whistleblower site for violation of terms of service, again. Epik is yet to confirm that it took such action.

While this is yet another setback for the anti-abortion mobs, it’s very likely going to be a temporary one. While it may raise eyebrows that this site was a bridge too far for Epik, it’s quite possible that they’ll find refuge with another company. Who remains to be seen. Still, some might consider it heartwarming that they are going through this many problems just to keep their site online for more than a day or so. As of this writing, the website is, for us, kicking out an invalid security certificate. Given the server hopping alone, it’s not surprising to see something like this is present at the moment.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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