I know we’re all wondering how Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson’s historic breakup will affect the upcoming midterm elections. And now we have an answer, kind of: Curiosity about it may have led more people to register to vote. Emphasis on the may!
As a way to encourage voter registration, some Twitter users have been posting, under the guise of celebrity gossip, bit.ly links that lead to vote.org. One purporting to explain the dissolution of Grande and Davidson’s relationship got over 1 million clicks, according to Vice.
That’s on top of the 2.5 million clicks a tweet from the weekend, claiming that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were divorcing, directed to vote.org.
This kind of link identity fraud is an old internet standby, thanks to Rickrolling, the ancient prank of tricking someone into watching the music video for Rick Astley’s song “Never Gonna Give You Up.” With these tweets, users are trying to harness the power of the Rickroll for good—while maybe also slyly commenting that the populace cares too much about celebrity news (big if true).
The art of the covert vote.org click isn’t particularly advanced: All you have to do is craft a tweet good enough for people to want to click, which is something years of consuming clickbait has trained us all to do. That the link in question goes through a URL shortener like bitly is a bit of an anachronism, because bitly’s heyday has come and gone, but apparently it wasn’t enough of a tell to stop it from fooling millions of users. Hence a bunch of other accounts putting their own spin on the trick voter registration tweet.
How many of these baited-and-switched gossip-seekers actually went on to register to vote is unknown, but with young people among the least likely groups to go to the polls, trying to reach them via tricking them on social media isn’t a bad idea. Democracy!
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.Join Slate Plus