Racists couldn’t stand to see three African-American girls make it to the finals of a coveted tech competition hosted by NASA, so they hacked the voting system to take votes AWAY from the D.C. teens.
The space agency was forced to shutter the competition one day before the official voting window had closed after someone made “malicious hacking attempts” to the online voting system, NASA Goddard said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon. Voting was set to end April 30.
As avid users of Twitter, we fully embrace the use of social media support for votes on our OPSPARC Challenge. We closed voting due to malicious hacking attempts to change the vote. All votes received before that point are legitimate and will be counted! https://t.co/lJXdTZaKm4
— NASA Goddard (@NASAGoddard) May 1, 2018
Benjamin Banneker Academic High School students Mikayla Sharrieff, India Skinner and Bria Snell are among eight finalists in NASA Goodard’s OSPARC Challenge and are in the running to win a four–day workshop at the space agency’s facility in Greenbelt, Md. The group, which goes by the name S3, submitted their “H2No to H2O” project and crafted a special filtration system designed to purify drinking water in schools and urban areas.
Sharrieff, Skinner and Snell are the only all-female team and the sole African-American team in the competition.
After making it past the semi-finals, screenshots of the online voting showed the eleventh graders leading the competition with 78 percent of the vote. NASA shut down voting a day, early, however, to “protect the integrity of the vote” after learning someone had breached the system.
“Unfortunately, it was brought to NASA’s attention yesterday that some members of the public used social media, not to encourage students and support STEM … but to attack a particular student team based on their race and encouraged others to disrupt the contest and manipulate the vote, and the attempt to manipulate the vote occurred shortly after those posts,” the space agency said in a statement.
On the competition’s website, NASA ensured that OSPARC Challenge overseers had an “accurate record of the voting results prior to the attempted disruption” and said that the “top three Public Choice teams in each category will be notified and recognized on the Challenge website.”
“NASA continues to support outreach and education for all Americans, and encourages all of our children to reach for the stars,” it added.
Folks are now rallying behind the three NASA contenders to boost their encouragement. For one, a group called “Black Women Who Plan and Create” has since launched a GoFundMe campaign to help the young teens reach their scientific goals. So far, the page has collected just over $3,000 in donations.
“As is expected, our beautiful young ladies have been blocked from achieving their goals,” the page reads. “It has been alleged that 4chan hacked the NASA website and skewed the votes. NASA has since suspended voting and will ‘only be using the rubrics’ to make a final decision.”