Update (10/7/19): Almost all of the merchandise on Amazon pushing the troll campaign has been removed (with one exception), according to a search on the site for the phrase “Islam is right about women.” However, the phrase still shows up as an auto search suggestion on Amazon when typing in “Islam is.”
Amazon has aided a troll campaign launched on notorious far-right online message board 4chan via merchandise sales, and the campaign has shown up in Twitter's auto search as well. The troll campaign, called “Islam is right about women,” was created on 4chan in an attempt to inflame tensions and target liberals. It has been promoted by multiple far-right figures, including an influential pro-Trump subreddit, and the message has been posted on flyers around multiple cities.
Throughout September, the campaign’s slogan has at times shown up as some of the top auto search suggestions on Twitter for “Islam” (Twitter has struggled with trolls impacting auto search results before). And merchandise carrying the slogan is now being sold on Amazon, which has also had issues with far-right trolls using its platform to profit. (Similar merchandise is being sold on other sites.)
How the troll campaign spread
On September 3, an anonymous user on 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board (known as “/pol/”) posted an image of the phrase “Islam is right about women,” claiming that it “calls out a leftist contradiction with feminism being incompatible with Islam” and asking, “If this were to be printed out, where could it be posted for maximum leftist meltdown?” The user added that the term “seems like it has some potential to be IOTBW version 2.0,” a reference to a previous 4chan campaign, “It’s okay to be white.” The thread had more than 300 posts in response.
Over the next couple of weeks, more 4chan threads popped up to promote the message, urging people on the site to “post it in public places with tape or just simply leave the papers in inconspicuous places” and to “go and stick it on your campus.” A Media Matters review found more than 1,300 posts referencing the campaign (which some users had shortened to “IIRAW”) on “/pol/” since the original September 3 post.
In mid-September, someone in Winchester, Massachusetts, posted flyers with the slogan throughout the town. Multiple local TV networks covered the incident, reporting that the signs had sparked “confusion” among residents and had upset some.
Trolls on “/pol/” mocked and cheered the response of Winchester residents, writing that “one of ya'll made the news,” and claimed that the campaign is “incredibly effective.” Users urged people to create a hashtag of the campaign on social media and to “launch a large scale operation” with the term.
Meanwhile, the campaign started to spread beyond 4chan users, in part due to the Winchester incident. Right-wing blog RedState claimed that the flyers are forcing a “conversation [that] is worth having,” and hyperpartisan site Western Journal wrote, “The posters raise interesting questions.” Anti-Muslim writer Robert Spencer pointed to the Winchester incident in a piece for Jihad Watch to attack the concept of hate speech, writing that “if this is ‘hate speech,’ then Islam is hateful.”
The troll campaign also became popular among popular right-wing and far-right YouTube channels. One video lauded the term, claiming “4chan Pulls off 4D Chess”; it was then promoted by Jack Posobiec, the One America News Network host who previously pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory multiple times. Another far-right YouTube channel, Black Pigeon Speaks, posted a video about the campaign, as did failed political candidate and far-right YouTube figure Carl Benjamin, known as Sargon of Akkad, and Alistair Williams, a conservative British comedian. Those videos currently have more than 800,000 views combined. A host on conspiracy theory outlet Infowars also lauded 4chan for a “prank for the history books.”
The troll campaign also became popular on toxic pro-Trump subreddit “r/The_Donald,” with posts pushing videos and memes from the campaign receiving thousands of “upvotes,” ranking them higher on the subreddit. One user posted printed flyers with the 4chan phrase and wrote that they were “ready to go to campus tomorrow.” Another user even posted a fake image of teen climate activist Greta Thunberg holding a similar flyer (the fake image also circulated on Facebook, Twitter, and 4chan). The subreddit’s Twitter account, which is run by the subreddit moderators, also pushed the campaign.
By the end of September, another prominent far-right troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, had embraced the campaign, linking on Telegram to a PDF of the slogan and writing that it was a “gift for you all” that people should “print and share!”
The spread of the troll campaign seemed to have had an impact: According to Britain’s The Times and media intelligence agency Storyful, flyers with the slogan were also posted in Ireland, and the slogan has been mentioned more than 2,000 times combined on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, and Gab, a social media platform known as a “haven for white nationalists.”