Apple's Shortcuts leveraged to disrupt Texas anti-abortion website
An iOS Shortcut devised by a TikTok content creator is being used to hinder the operation of a Texas anti-abortion website that is urging people to report individuals seeking a procedure.
A controversial Texas law banning abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy went into effect on Sept. 1, a development strongly opposed by pro-choice activists across the country.
In a bid to thwart legal opposition, state officials are unable to enforce the legislation. Instead, citizens are effectively deputized to sue anyone who "aids and abets" in a deemed-illegal abortion. In addition to the right to recover legal fees, plaintiffs can be awarded damages of $10,000 per instance.
To boost enforcement, anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life set up a website through which anonymous "pro-life whistleblowers" can report violations of the law, reports Motherboard. In response, activists are inundating the site with spam, with at least one enterprising individual creating a script to automate the process.
A TikTok creator known as Sean Black detailed his work on an automation to flood the Texas Right to Life website's reporting system in a video this week. The script, called "AbBOT," sends a falsified request to the site every 10 to 15 seconds, with Black able to push about 300 requests before his IP was blocked.
Black shared the code with his followers and later created a Shortcut to streamline the process for iOS device users. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 4,170 people accessed the code and some 4,870 clicked on a link to the Shortcut, the report said.
Black's method is designed to stymie efforts to weed out spam from legitimate submissions.
"Because it uses realistic information it makes it harder for them to parse their data," Black told Motherboard.
Running the Shortcut from Share Sheets generates a random Texas city, county and ZIP code, as well as other information, and enters the data into the site's reporting form. The process has been slowed by the institution of a captcha, but Black is working on a workaround.
"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. There are people on TikTok using their platform to educate and do their part. I believe this is me doing mine," Black said.
On Friday, GoDaddy gave Texas Right to Life 24 hours to move to another hosting service, saying the "whistleblower" website violates its terms of service, reports The Verge.