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Missouri attorney general took down a form about transgender people after activists spammed it

Andrew Bailey, newly appointed Missouri Attorney General, gives remarks after being sworn in on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, at the Missouri Supreme Court in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Andrew Bailey, newly appointed Missouri Attorney General, gives remarks after being sworn in in January at the Missouri Supreme Court in Jefferson City.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office is still investigating after several viral internet posts encouraged thousands of people to submit joke responses to a form seeking information about transgender people.

The form, launched in March, was intended to serve as a tip line for people to report “harm from gender transition interventions” or “troubling practices at transition clinics in Missouri.”

But internet users saw the form as an attempt to surveil transgender Missourians. They spammed the page with false names and reports, including the script of the 2007 animated film Bee Movie, explicit fanfiction and fake stories. Some coded scripts to automatically fill and submit the form.

On Friday, the attorney general’s office said the form had been taken down temporarily because of far-left activists.

“Rather than standing on their supposed science to back up their facts, they’re resorting to trying to hack our system to silence victims of the exact network we’re attempting to expose,” said Bailey’s spokeswoman Madeline Sieren in a statement.

On Tuesday, Sieren said the attorney general’s office was still investigating the incident. She did not say exactly how many responses the form received, but said it was in the thousands.

A tweet from Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School and LGBTQ advocate, was seen by 1.2 million people and got nearly 11,000 likes.

Everyone started going HAM,” Caraballo told KCUR. “People’s creativity is always greater than you can imagine.”

Caraballo said she was concerned the form would be used to report any transgender person or transition-related procedure to the government. There are plenty of other ways, she said, for citizens to report concerns about medical care, and other officials entrusted with investigating those reports.

“They don’t need to report it to the attorney general, who is not a licensed physician,” she said. “That's the job of the state medical board. So he's inserting himself into medical issues.”

A tweet from a Dallas-Fort Worth-based activist group called Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club was seen by 6.4 million people and got nearly 80,000 likes.

The Missouri form reminded the group of similar attemptsto collect information on transgender people in Texas, said a group member calling themself Bubbles. They declined to give their full name, citing harassment and doxxing attempts against their group. Bubbles said they knew of people whom police and child protective services had investigated because of information submitted on similar forms.

“From our view, all of these actions around the country are tied together,” they said. “That made us feel very strongly about making sure people were at least aware of this form in Missouri.”

It’s not the first time activists have flooded “snitch forms” with fake responses in an attempt to render them useless. The efforts are spurred by social media posts.

In 2022, TikTok users sent fake reports to a Virginia government email address seeking information on teachers using “critical race theory” in classrooms.

In 2021, social media users spammed a Texas anti-abortion group’s website after it asked people to anonymously report people facilitating or seeking abortions.

Nomin Ujiyediin