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K-pop fans flood social media to support Black Lives Matter and combat racism

BTS performs on ABC's "Good Morning America" in May 2019.
(Associated Press)

K-pop fans are famous for their persistent and creative ways to make online life miserable for people who demean their favorite artists and groups.

But on Wednesday, the genre’s sometimes-toxic community harnessed its digital savvy and mercilessness for more noble causes: shutting down white supremacist social media and overwhelming police tip lines meant to identify Black Lives Matter protesters.

A planned day of social media action from white supremacists, which was being promoted with the hashtag #whitelivesmatter, quickly went sideways. K-pop fans, who on any given day control a meaningful percentage of the trending topics across social media, decided to flood the tag with “fancam” footage of beloved acts like BTS and Blackpink. They also threw in memes ripping anyone earnestly using the tag to search for white-nationalist news.

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They took aim at several pro-Trump and police hashtags too, renderingmuch of #MAGA and #BlueLivesMatter Twitter useless for the day.

K-pop fans also found ways to steer their ire toward police efforts to identify Black Lives Matter protesters. Several police departments, including those in Dallas and Grand Rapids, Mich., had established public digital tip lines where residents could send footage of protesters, which cops could then investigate.

“If you have video of illegal activity from the protests and are trying to share it with @DallasPD, you can download it to our iWatch Dallas app. You can remain anonymous,” the Dallas department wrote on Saturday.

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Over the weekend, jokes about K-pop fandom’s capacity to flood the app with fancam footage quickly became a genuine direct action, as fans filed reams of “tips” that were really footage of Korean groups performing. The Dallas PD quickly pulled back its efforts: “Due to technical difficulties iWatch Dallas app will be down temporarily,” the department announced.

A number of K-pop artists have been more plainly supportive of Black Lives Matter protests sparked by George Floyd’s killing, including Got7, Jay Park, Amber Liu, CL and others. They’ve acknowledged the debt that their music owes to black artists and advocated for protests that have swept much of the globe.

Get live updates from Los Angeles Times journalists as they report on protests across the U.S. after the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

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