It was a fairly typical assignment for seniors in high school today—mock-up an event related to a civil cause, create a social media presence, and imitate media response. This might sound alien to older readers, but to those growing up in the era of Facebook, it’s actually very good skill-building for any desk job.
But like anything on the Internet, it can get out of hand, and for four seniors at Enloe High School in Raleigh, N.C., it did.
Vishnu Inuganti, Julie Cybrynski, Daniel Zhu, and Maks Bezruchko were assigned to work as a group in their AP Government and Civics class. Together, the four created an anti-voter suppression group that they called “The Coalition for Voter Freedom.”
They built a small Facebook and Twitter presence for the group, as the assignment dictated. But complications arose when they moved to the next step of the assignment, the mock-event. They made a flier for a rally to take place at Red Hat Amphitheater, featuring Michelle Obama as the keynote speaker.
That got attention, and few people looked closely enough to see that the event was pure fiction. In less than a day, even though the students only directed one person (their teacher) to the event’s page, over 1,000 people signed up to attend.
Before they could take the site down, that reached 5,000. The manager of the amphitheater contacted the group in a panic. That’s when they decided to take it down. And while Inuganti asked his father what constituted fraud, the four faced no consequences from their accidentally viral project. To the contrary, they regard it as a huge success.
“We gained the interest of a lot of people for a project we were supposed to gain interest for,” said Julie Cybrynski. “It’s really cool how it escalated so quickly and became a real thing, even though it was a project.”
No word yet from their teacher on their final grade, however.