K-pop stans are notorious for their immense presence on the internet, particularly on Twitter, where hashtags of their favorite artists often trend on a weekly basis. However, with the death of George Floyd and many other cases of injustice and police brutality against black people in the United States, K-pop stans have channeled their energy into online activism.
Esquire calls K-pop fans the “most powerful fandom in the world.” In 2019 alone, there were 6.1 billion tweets related to K-pop on Twitter, accounting for 3% of all tweets on the platform. The fandom size is formidable, and when organized for a single cause, its presence is undeniably strong. In the past week, fans’ virtual powers were made clear through their online activism for the Black Lives Matter movement.
On Saturday, May 31, the Dallas police department sent out a tweet asking for videos of “illegal activity from the protests” to be sent to their new app, iWatch Dallas. In a now deleted tweet, K-pop stan and Twitter user ngelwy tweeted, “DOWNLOAD THE APP AND SEND ALL YOUR FANCAMS!!! SEND THEM ALL!!! MAKE THEIR JOBS AS HARD AS POSSIBLE!!! GET THEM FRUSTRATED!!! MAKE THEM TAKE DOWN THE APP!!!”
LMFAO THE KPOP GIRLS TOOK DOWN THE IWATCH DALLAS POLICE APP WITH THEIR FANCAMS pic.twitter.com/U9qLFbJKl5
— ?????????? ????? ??????? (@thotimus_primee) June 1, 2020
K-pop stans responded to the call immediately, flooding the app with fancams. Fancams are short videos shot by fans at concerts or events where Korean idols or idol groups are performing live. They are usually shot from up close and focus on a specific member. Some Twitter users even offered tips on how to make sure algorithms could not filter through the videos, such as cutting the videos horizontally so that each video was unique. Later that same day, the Dallas police department tweeted, “Due to technical difficulties iWatch Dallas app will be down temporarily.” The mentions of the tweet are filled with more fancams and stan accounts celebrating the shutdown of the app.
Within hours, K-pop stans were able to crash the department’s app in a feat of cyber activism. Cyber activism is defined by Front Line Defenders, an international human rights organization founded in 2001, as “the process of using Internet-based socializing and communication techniques to create, operate and manage activism of any type.” Since then, other police departments have created similar apps and have been met with the same response from K-pop fans.
K-pop stans have also engaged in other forms of cyber activism and have shifted their attention to flooding right-wing hashtags, such as #WhiteOutWednesday, #MAGA, #AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter. Such collective action halts the spread of “alt-right” content and makes it more difficult for those individuals to connect over these social media platforms.
On June 3, #WhiteLivesMatter was trending with over 25,000 tweets, almost entirely filled with K-pop fancams. The activist effort even caught the attention of Anonymous, an online hacktivist group that recently resurfaced to support the Black Lives Matter movement. The Anonymous affiliated account YourAnonNews tweeted, “Respect out to the Kpop Stans.”
Respect out to the Kpop Stans
— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) June 3, 2020
The swift and coordinated actions of K-pop fans are definitely not surprising for anyone who has been on Twitter within the past few years. K-pop idols and groups are constantly trending on social media, and oftentimes K-pop stans will create hashtags, such as #shawnmendesisoverparty, to promote fancams.
K-pop stans have historically been adept at organizing together and streaming music videos of their favorite artists. International K-pop stans stay up until odd hours just to stream music videos the minute they are released, and they’ve mastered YouTube’s algorithm to get their favorite groups trending. The stans have shared these online tactics with activists, as well as used them in support of YouTube videos created to raise funds for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The first video was created by YouTuber Zoe Amira, who made an hour-long video embedded with multiple ads to give people a way to donate funds to the Black Lives Matter movement if they were unable to donate directly.
According to Amira, all the funds from her video will “be donated to the associations that offer protester bail funds, help pay for family funerals, and advocacy listed in the beginning of the video.”
K-pop fans were quick to share advice on how to optimize viewing and make sure that repeated views are not counted as spam. Most notably, one method that K-pop stans use to increase views on a video is known as the “5/+/r/3/a/m” method.
This method requires watching three to five videos before watching the same video again to make sure YouTube counts and monetizes repeated watches. One way to implement the method is to create a playlist and have it play on a loop, which allows the video to play automatically. Fans also advised against muting the video on YouTube but said muting the entire tab would allow for the view to count.
K-pop stans have also urged their favorite groups to rally behind the Black Lives Matter movement publicly.
On Thursday, June 4, popular K-pop boy group BTS tweeted, “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter.” Although BTS has commented on politics before through their lyrics, this marked one of the few times they have explicitly and publicly made political statements. In large part, the statement can be attributed to the effect of their international fandom. BTS has a large global following, with 17% of ARMYs (the name of the BTS fandom) living in the United States.
Only two days later, June 6, it was reported that BTS donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter. The same night, the BTS fan-led charity, “OneInAnArmy,” created a campaign called “MatchAMillion” to rally together ARMYs internationally and match BTS’s donation. In under 24 hours, they were able to reach their goal and raise over $1 million.
K-pop fans are dedicated, passionate and tech savvy. Combining their dedication with Generation Z’s overall fervent commitment to justice, it is no surprise they were able to come together and organize so rapidly. One thing is for certain: Never underestimate the power of K-pop stans.