Why K-pop Fans Are No Longer Posting About K-pop
Updated at 8:48 p.m. ET on June 7, 2020.
On early Sunday morning, when the Dallas Police Department tweeted asking people to submit videos of “illegal activity” at protests to its iWatch Dallas app, K-pop fans were ready.
“I wanted to do something to stop or slow [the police] down,” a 16-year-old Houston girl who goes by @YGSHIT on Twitter told me. She was one of many South Korean–pop fans who quickly realized that their lightning-fast coordination and prodigious spamming abilities could be repurposed for what she considers a righteous cause. Concerned that video clips submitted to the police app might be used to identify and possibly arrest peaceful protesters, K-pop fans improvised. They submitted, over and over, their collections of “fancams” —short clips of concerts or promotional footage, usually zoomed in to focus on a favorite performer.
@YGSHIT, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from the police, selected a clip from a recent music video by the boy band BTS , which she submitted four or five times. Then she did the same for a clip of Dahyun, a member of the girl group Twice. The same for a clip of Ryujin, a member of the girl group ITZY. And for a live clip of the girl group Red Velvet.
Within hours, the police app had crashed. The Dallas Police Department announced the next day that the cause of the “interruption” was “still being determined,” and a spokesperson declined to provide further information, telling me that none was available.
On Twitter, fan accounts with large followings continued to mobilize. When the FBI tweeted asking for images of “individuals inciting violence” at protests, the call came almost immediately: “kpop stans”—internet slang for extremely invested fans—“you know what to do.” When the police department in Grand Rapids, Michigan, created an online portal for images and videos of “unrest,” @YGSHIT tweeted , “y’all already know what to do KPOP STANS RISE.”
[ Read: I wasn’t a fan of BTS. And then I was. ]
Over the past week, as protests against police brutality have erupted nationwide, online fandoms of K-pop, Harry Styles, and others established a clear course of action: They would not use any of their normal promotional hashtags to boost their favorite music, instead keeping themselves and the platform focused on the message of Black Lives Matter. They would repurpose accounts that normally track chart positions and celebrity Instagram posts to instead disseminate information about how to support the protests. They would clog up every police department’s digital efforts. They would flood racist hashtags like #whitelivesmatter and #alllivesmatter with more concert footage to render them useless.
Many of them did this before hearing anything from the idols whose faces they use as their avatars, and several of them told me they did it because they felt a “responsibility” to use their technological...