NASA Shuts Down Science Competition’s Online Voting After 4chan Trolls Them

Marjie Lambert/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images

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Kyle Perisic Contributor
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The 4chan trolls are at it again. Their most recent victims are NASA and a couple high school students. This time, they’ve forced NASA to shut down online public voting for a science competition.

“On Sunday, April 29, hackers attempted to change the vote totals in the NASA OPSPARC Challenge, so managers of the challenge decided to end public voting to protect the integrity of the results,” NASA said in a statement.

NASA’s OPSPARC challenge allowed the public to vote for the teams they wanted to win competition online. Included in this was an all black, all female team — the only one in the competition — and an all male team.

The people over on 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” board saw there were social media users pushing for their followers to vote for the all black team — apparently, just for being black women.

Some 4chan users said it was “unfair” social media users with large audiences were encouraging their followers to vote for the all black female team, which put the team decisively ahead of the other teams. So users on the notorious image board decided to get other users to vote for an all male team in the competition.

“Send our boys Thomas and friends to NASA for something great instead of losing because they’re not dark enough!” The original post on 4chan promoted.

Users on 4chan encouraged using Tor, an internet browser that lets users change their IP address, so they could vote multiple times, bypassing the NASA website’s ability to prevent them from voting once, and provided instructions on how to download and use the browser.

In response to the situation, Black Women Who Plan and Create started a GoFundMe, “Hidden Figures 2018” — a reference to the movie, “Hidden Figures,” about the three black women who helped get the U.S. to the moon for the first time in human history — to give the three girls a scholarship. At the time of publication, it was trending on and raised over $20,000.

The winning group of the competition will receive an invitation for a two-day trip of workshops with scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Rather than leave it to a vote, a panel of NASA Goddard judges will decide the winners, using the published rubrics. Winners will be notified later in May.

Follow Kyle on Twitter @KylePerisic

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