Saying it was declaring war on "sodomite groomers," a group of internet trolls recently launched a coordinated attack against The Trevor Project.
Dubbed "Operation Gomorrah" by its organizers, members of the 4chan /pol/ message board impersonated suicidal youth and inundated the 24/7 hotline and online chat provided by the support group to LGBTQ+ youth at risk of death by suicide. The attack resulted in increased wait time for legitimately at-risk youth.
"The act of attacking a crisis services line intended to prevent suicide among young people is egregious," The Trevor Project said in an emailed statement to The Advocate. "Our crisis counselors work around the clock to be there for LGBTQ youth who feel like they have nowhere to turn, and it's harrowing that anybody would attempt to compromise our lifeline or encourage suicide."
Kevin Wong, a spokesperson for The Trevor Project, described the event as "appalling" to Buzzfeed News, and said the hateful efforts by the trolls resulted in increased wait times for youth legitimately seeking help.
"They inundated our crisis services -- the crisis services that are meant for LGBTQ young people to connect with a trained counselor so that they can talk through some of the stuff and get support through some of the things that they're finding challenging," Wong said.
Alex Kaplan, senior researcher at Media Matters for America tweeted screen captures of some of the comments left by the trolls in the /pol/ message board, including the initial post introducing "Operation Gomorrah."
The initial post referred to staff at The Trevor Project as "noted groomers" who provide help to "f*g youth" and "normalize it with children."
The post directed members to contact The Trevor Project to "F*ck up the queue so sodomites and f*gs commit suicide due to being unable to receive assistance."
\u201cUsers on far-right message board 4chan "/pol/" tried to clog up The Trevor Project's hotline for LGBTQ+ youth considering self-harm with fake cases to prevent people from accessing the hotline. Users posted images of their conversations & claimed were able to clog up the hotline.\u201d
Despite the attack, The Trevor Project made clear it would not back down from its mission of providing support and services to at-risk LGBTQ+ youth.
"Every second counts when you work in suicide prevention, and we strongly condemn this intent to obstruct our lines and create even more barriers for LGBTQ people who rely on our help," The Trevor Project told The Advocate. "We are working diligently in the face of this disruption to protect our counselors and those youth who need us."
If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678.