1. It often starts on a forum like 4chan.
Anonymous image board 4chan has a section called /pol/. Sometime around Thursday or Friday of last week, users on /pol/ decided to try and get the hashtag #EndFathersDay trending on Twitter. Users at the time compared it to similar fake activism tags like #WhitesCantBeRaped, which, as a quick search on Twitter reveals, appears to have been a failed prank attempted last week.
2. Some people, like those users on 4chan, have dummy accounts that look and seem like real activists but are almost definitely trolls.
The above account was debunked by David Futrelle, the writer behind the men’s rights activist watch-blog, Man Boobz. Futrelle tracked the account’s avatar to a stock photo website. Also, as Futrelle points out, in her Twitter bio, “Phoebe Kwon” spelled her hometown wrong.
3. The fake hashtag starts to pick up steam as real and possibly fake accounts start circulating it.
4. People then notice the hashtag and start reacting to it, making it even more noticeable.
6. Which makes the hashtag spread even further.
The popularity of #EndFathersDay hit its peak on Sunday and has since been used over 60,000 times.
7. Then it’s declared as fake.
But the hashtag isn’t simply going to die down, though. The hoax has already successfully done what it was meant to, which is make people angry. By the time #EndFathersDay was declared a hoax it was already too late. For instance, the Daily Caller covered it when it first began trending and said that it was a hoax that had become real. Which is what the trolls who started it in the beginning wanted.
8. #EndFathersDay is possibly part of a larger troll campaign called “Operation Lollipop”:
According to “Douglas,” a writer for men’s rights and pickup artist lifestyle site Return of Kings, there is a larger smear campaign happening, of which #EndFathersDay is only one piece. With all of these things, just keep in mind that it’s incredibly hard to determine who exactly is lying. Douglas claims he was emailed information about “Operation Lollipop” by someone calling themselves “Bavarian.”
9. “Operation Lollipop” is reportedly a network of troll accounts that use fake hashtags to bait real activists.
In Bavarian’s email to Douglas, he claims that there are trolls running networks of what they call “People of Oppression” or “PoO” Twitter accounts. Bavarian writes:
I was told you are interested in my group’s (Codename: Lollipop) ongoing operation against the PoOs (People of Oppression). My group poses as feminists on twitter. We bait other PoOs into agreeing with us as we subtly move them more and more to the extreme. The purpose is to make moderate feminists turned off with the movement, as well as cause infighting within the group. As some of our operatives have been compromised, my commander has given me permission to make some of their conversations on twitter public. We want to let the PoOs know that we have infiltrated them so that they begin to accuse each other of being Lollipop operatives.
You can read more about possibly fake “PoO” accounts on a Return of Kings-associated forum here
10. It’s been happening for a while now.
A deleted Tumblr from 2013 describes “Privilege Wars” and actually points to Twitter user @NayNayCantStop as a troll account. The blog is down, but you can still access parts of it via the Way Back Machine. It refers to a concept called “black propaganda,” a war tactic in which one side of a conflict disseminates false information to the other side to throw them into chaos or even just to embarrass them.
11. It will happen again.
In January, trolls used the same tactics to make #BikiniBridge trend. It didn’t target social justice activists like #EndFathersDay did, but it threw Twitter into chaos just the same. Douglas from Return of Kings points to #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen as a hashtag that he believes might not have been started by Operation Lollipop followers, but one that attempted to be co-opted by them.
12. If you ignore hashtags you don’t like, they can’t trend and won’t work.
Here is an example of a similar hashtag from last week that didn’t work. Most likely it was too obvious of a troll and too extreme to trick people. It topped out at four to five tweets total before dying. Whether or not “Operation Lollipop” is as organized and devious as its members claim it is, the only way the troll accounts can accomplish anything is if they’re baited. So, basically: “If you see something, don’t tweet something.”