Over the course of 3 years, a mix of pranksters and extremists (right wing) launched a butterfly attack campaign as part of a meme war to muddy the waters in an organic Black Twitter hashtag, and utilized digital blackface to amplify memes workshopped on 4chan. Overall, the campaign targeted Black activists and communities online in an effort to sow confusion, discredit authentic support, and suppress voter turnout for the Democratic Party. This campaign was redeployed several times to correspond to cultural trends or breaking news events.
STAGE 1: Manipulation Campaign Planning and Origins
The first organic use of #Blaxit (Black people’s exit) as a Twitter hashtag and viral slogan dates to June 2016, a play on the Brexit referendum that passed in the UK that same month. The initial uses of Blaxit were a mix of pro- and anti-Black sentiment from a variety of Twitter users. The phrase formalized on July 11, 2016, when physician and public health advocate Ulyssess Burley III published a tongue-in-cheek op-ed on the The Salt Collective entitled “#BLAXIT : 21 things we’re taking with us if we leave.” The op-ed explored implications of a Trump presidency on Black America, and suggested expatriation as a response. On its Twitter account, The Salt Collective indicated the article’s popularity crashed its website.