Has a celebrity recently tricked you into registering to vote? You’re not the only one. Millions of people have been misdirected into visiting to Vote.org by a new meme in which a covert bitly link to the site is disguised by the promise of salacious or eye-popping content on the other side.
The meme was started last week by activist and media personality Ashlee Marie Preston, who duped followers by telling them that Kanye and Kim Kardashian are splitting.
Welp…it’s official…Kim Kardashian finally decided to divorce Kanye West… https://t.co/C2p25mxWJO
— Ashlee Marie Preston (@AshleeMPreston) October 12, 2018
The joke was retweeted more than 60,000 times since it was posted Friday, racking up an incredible 2.6 million redirects to Vote.org in the process.
Two days later the meme was tweeted by Tim Cigelske, a 37-year-old social media manager from Milwaukee, who capitalized on the report that Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson had broken up. He ended up being retweeted more than 40,000 times, including by the likes of James Corden, Sarah Silverman and Bill Simmons, among other. Like Preston, it also drove a lot of people to Vote.org — 2.1 million, as of this writing.
From there, celebs joined in, including the likes of actress Natasha Rockwell, director Matthew A. Cherry, and even the official “Law & Order: SVU” Twitter account.
— SVU on USA (@IsSVUonUSAnow) October 17, 2018
Comedian Jena Friedman tried to lure the foot-fetish crowd:
Who wants to see some hot, new pictures of my feet? https://t.co/1m8kRKpOiz
— Jena Friedman (@JenaFriedman) October 17, 2018
Actor Kevin Zegers claimed that someone had stolen his “very private” collection of nude pictures.
Someone stole my collection of celebrity nudes. Very private. If you see this man, please call authorities. https://t.co/8qZfSYe8TO
— Kevin Zegers (@KevinZegers) October 17, 2018
Film producer Kim Sherrell took a page from Preston and milked Kanye drama for democracy.
Wow! Is this why Ivanka unfollowed Kanye? https://t.co/HC87h8OhWI
— @kim (@kim) October 17, 2018
And Cherry meanwhile lured potential voters with the promise of a new wrinkle in the drama over Drake’s secret son.
40 just responded to Pusha T’s allegations that he is the one that told Push about Drake’s baby and his response is unreal https://t.co/5m8tWuGJ8w
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) October 17, 2018
Preston says she isn’t surprised by the response she got to the tweet, which she calls “a controlled experiment” that proved how stories of serious importance are buried under celebrity news. But she says she saw it as a good opportunity for her to redirect the energy people spend on celebrity gossip for more high-minded purposes.
“I grew sick of seeing Kanye being used as Trump’s sock puppet and decided that two can play that game,” Preston told TheWrap. “Since people on the internet were taking the bait and allowing Kanye to drive them insane–I figured I’d use Kanye AND Kim to drive them to the polls; where their bandwidth and energy are put to better use.”