If you’ve turned on a radio, television, or Internet-connected device since last Monday, you’ve probably heard that there was a federal election in the United States this past week. After waiting through four days of election officials nationwide working to tally up ballots as fast as they could, all major media outlets on Saturday agreed that the Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, won the election, paving the path for him to be sworn in as our 46th president in January.
One key figure, however, has yet to accept the outcome: the loser of the race, incumbent President Donald Trump. Trump made clear in September that he had no intent of conceding should he lose the election. He has followed through on that threat, filing a dozen lawsuits in at least five states so far, making baseless allegations of fraud and seeking to have ballots thrown out or recounted.
As part of this effort, Trump administration officials and their allies, such as the president’s adult sons, took to social media asking anyone with suspicions or evidence of voter fraud to call a specific hotline number. The Internet has responded to the existence of this hotline exactly as one might expect: with maximum trolling.
Prank calls gone public
ABC News was first to report that staffers at the campaign’s Arlington, Virginia, headquarters have been inundated with prank calls—and that recordings of those calls have become a popular trend on short-form video sharing social media platform TikTok.
One user, for example, recorded her call in which she quoted CNN’s Anderson Cooper, saying she found an “obese turtle” overturned on is back in the sun. Another, unable to keep from laughing for the full duration of her call, claimed to have seen individuals “literally spreading poop” on their ballots.
Playing an anti-Trump rap, “FDT,” was one popular tactic. (The “F” stands for exactly what you think it does, and the audio is not safe for most workplaces.) And music also formed the backdrop for another prank, in which the caller told the Trump campaign that she was a voter in Georgia, “in line to vote, and there was this guy there… and he challenged me to a fiddle contest?” while playing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” in the background.
Twitter, too, has proven a popular platform for callers to share their own variations on the genre. Alex Hirsch, creator of the Disney show Gravity Falls, went above and beyond in his call, using the voices of two Gravity Falls characters to describe The Hamburglar in great detail and then encouraging followers of his Twitter feed to follow in his path.
Does TikTok strike again?
This is not the first time that trolling Trump has become a TikTok trend. There is a popular theory that keeps circulating that teens using TikTok managed to artificially depress the turnout to a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June and that the Trump administration developed a vendetta against the app as a result.
Reality, however, is both more complicated and less tidy. First, the TikTok campaign probably didn’t have a major effect on turnout at that rally. And second: regulators first began their national security investigation into TikTok more than eight months before that rally, at the behest of Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
The White House’s rhetoric against TikTok did heat up in July, however, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview the administration was considering a ban on several China-based apps, beginning but not ending with the short-form video platform. The Trump administration followed through on that threat in August, with the president issuing executive orders that declared both WeChat and TikTok to be national security threats and issuing bans that would go into effect in September.
Those plans, however, have been repeatedly foiled in the courts. Different judges granted injunctions putting the bans on hold in lawsuits filed by both TikTok creators and WeChat users. Several lawsuits on behalf of both apps continue to wind their way through the courts and will likely be doing so for quite some time.
Meanwhile, Oracle nominally won out over Microsoft in a bid to buy TikTok’s US operations from Chinese owner ByteDance back in September. The terms of that transaction, though, seem to be a mess at best, and the deal has not yet reached any resolution.