Observers

A large group of conservative social media users have created a fake online challenge in a bid to discredit the protest movement against racism and police violence that has swept the United States since the death of George Floyd, un unarmed black man killed on May 25 by a white Minneapolis police officer. These conservative agitators invented a fake movement calling for white women to shave their heads, shedding their “privileged” hair in solidarity with Black Americans. But it turns out this fake campaign hasn’t duped anyone.

The campaign seems to have started on the famous American forum 4chan, home to lots of social media users who are fans of trolling, creating divisive online controversies, often with no factual basis. Most of the time, these trolls remain anonymous and act extremely aggressively. 

"Get #goBaldforBLM trending on Twitter and Instagram. The idea is to get women, particularly white women, to shave their heads for BLM. Guilt them into getting rid of their straight “white” hair to show “solidarity” with black women,” reads this message posted on 4chan on June 4 by an anonymous user whose profile includes a Knights Templar flag, which is a symbol associated with the far right. 

Since that post, #GoBaldForBLM has been used more than 25,000 times on Twitter.
 
Photos gathered from all over the internet

The post on 4chan features a photo of a young, tattooed woman who has an electric razor in her hand. The same day, that photo was posted by a fake Twitter account. 
"Your hair can grow back, show your support and solidarity by shaving your hair!” reads the caption on this photo posted by a fake Twitter account. 

We ran a reverse image search (click here to find out how) and found this photo had been posted on blogs way back in 2017 – long before George Floyd was killed.

The tweet above was posted by a fake account that primarily follows well-known conservatives and conservative media outlets. 
 

In total, people shared this series of three photos showing a woman shaving off her long brown hair more than 2,100 times. However, it turns out that this photo was posted online way before the protests began in May 2020.

"Sure enough, just did a reverse image search. This photo is from no earlier than 2019. This is the work of online agitators,” reads this response posted to the previous tweet by entrepreneur Jeremy Gardner.
 
In the following tweet, entrepreneur Jeremy Gardner shows the same image posted on May 18 on the Pinterest platform, which proves that this photo had already been posted online before the protest movement began. 
 
"I did NOT shave my head for some fragile white performative bull sh*t, I lost my hair during chemotherapy”

Agitators also used other photos of women with shaved heads to make it look like they had fallen for the fake movement. One example is the tweet below, which was shared more than 400 times.


The image on the top right shows a girl before and after she shaved her head. Once again, this photo is old. It was first posted on Tumblr back in 2017.

The image on the bottom left shows two similar before and after pictures. 


The first image shows a woman with auburn hair wearing a black top. Several Twitter users found the original photo, which was posted on Instagram on March 26. 

The original caption on the photo reads: "Look what my friend Mel was brave enough to do today. Such an Amazing selfless act in support of Australians with blood cancer! Raising $2,500…”

The second pair of photos are much more recent, but they don’t have anything to do with the Black Lives Matter movement. The young woman in the photo is Lucy Sweeney, who has an illness that causes her hair to fall out. Australian. Media outlet ABC reported that she decided to shave her head completely during lockdown.

The photo on the bottom right shows a tweet from a fake account attributed to someone named '"Ashley Watson". “Me before and after, Please show your support for #BLM and the African American community #GoBaldForBLM,” reads the post. However, the young woman in the photos has spoken out against the theft and misappropriation of her photo. 


"Hi y’all, those pictures are of me. I did NOT shave my head for some fragile white performative bull sh**, I lost my hair during chemotherapy in 2018 and loved that bald look so much I kept it buzzed,” wrote Lizzeth Lemon on Twitter.  
  
"I haven’t seen any women fall for this movement”

Websites affiliated with the French far right claimed that quite a few women had fallen for the fake movement. 
“White women being more desperate than ever for attention, some of them even did the #GoBaldForBLM challenge", reads a post on Nouvelordremondial

However, after extensive research on social media, our team didn’t find any examples of women who had fallen for the trap set by 4chan trolls and actually tried to shave their heads in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.  

Stéphanie Lamy is a feminist and a specialist in infowars. She came to the same conclusion.
 
I first saw #GoBaldForBLM emerging in online identity circles [Editor’s note: an extreme right political movement] in Austria. I quickly realised that the trend had circulated a lot from the moment it was created in the United States to its arrival in France. The message was shared on different platforms but always shared by the same type of person – white, anti-feminist men or men’s rights supporters with links to the extreme right who like to rant about “traitorous” white women who are with non-white men. In French, they call these women by the derogatory name “PAN”, an acronym that stands for the more vulgar version of “black man’s whore” ("p*te à n*gre"). 

I haven’t seen any women fall for this fake movement and I don’t think that the men’s rights supporters actually thought it would work. Their main aim was to revel in a sort of twisted “joke” together and show hate towards women and men of color. On a larger scale, they also see it as a counter-attack to the Black Lives Matter movement that has managed to cross borders and gathered thousands of supporters. 

Article by Liselotte Mas