Users on far-right message boards have tried to sabotage a Pennsylvania program to ensure businesses are following the state's coronavirus policies to protect public health.
On April 23, the Pennsylvania Department of Health released an online form allowing the public to report businesses that have failed to comply with state guidelines on the coronavirus by not providing masks to employees, practicing social distancing, or cleaning their workplaces to prevent the spread of the disease. LancasterOnline reported that “health officials say the effort is designed to protect workers and make sure businesses follow state guidelines that require customers wear masks.” LancasterOnline also quoted an agency spokesperson saying, “We want to ensure people have the ability to voice their concerns and complaints, should they feel the need to do so.”
Trolls on far-right message boards have seized on the portal as a “snitch site,” posting links to it and encouraging people to send false information to the state government.
On 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board known as “/pol/,” users in multiple threads have urged others to get the portal “shut down” and “make it useless” by “flooding it with false reports.” Users claimed they had reported different groups they disliked and some posted screenshots of them reporting the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pittsburgh.
Some 4chan users also wrote that they planned to use the form to target Jews and people of color and to exacerbate racial tensions, such as by using Yelp to report “15 white owned businesses” in order to encourage “acceleration” -- a concept that white nationalists believe will hasten society’s collapse -- and discussing “where are the black areas of Pennsylvania so we can snitch on n*****s.”
Trolls also targeted the form on the new site for the subreddit “r/The_Donald,” where users have moved after Reddit started cracking down on the subreddit. Users encouraged others to “have fun” with the form with “fake reports” to get it “Pepe'd to death,” with some promising to report Planned Parenthood and “liberals who run small shops,” and one person claiming that they submitted “Anne Frank’s information.”
Far-right message boards have previously targeted other hotlines this year, such as the Iowa Democratic caucus results hotline and another coronavirus tipline in New York City. As NBC News reported, message boards also recently circulated “documents containing email addresses and purported login information belonging to medical researchers and nonprofit employees working to address the coronavirus outbreak,” potentially making them targets of harassment.