People on social media, mostly men, are encouraging one another to report explicit subscription-only social media channels to the IRS to audit undisclosed income.
The harassment campaign, which has gone viral in certain internet circles, has been dubbed #thotaudit, a portmanteau of the slang term for a sexually promiscuous person, "thot," and "audit," referring to an IRS investigation.
It's unclear how many people have actually reported sex workers and women with explicit, subscription-only social media accounts to the IRS. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"No one I know has been reported. I'm not sure anyone's actually reporting anything," porn star Casey Calvert told BuzzFeed News. "You know, these are the dudes that get mad over a dick pic. Reporting fraud to the IRS actually takes effort. Even if they are reporting, I'm not sure the IRS would ever do anything."
Porn stars and sex workers have increasingly turned to personalized content, such as subscription-only social media accounts or customized videos, to earn a living amid a glut of free online porn. Some sites like Patreon issue 1099 IRS forms for the work, but many do not because of the separation of payment and content distribution platforms.
One tweet promoting the campaign by user @womenstilltrash racked up more than 80,000 likes and retweets since Nov. 23. Prominent online right-wing personalities with a history of misogynist behavior also helped spread it.
One man who made a video about the campaign summed up its purported intentions: "These women are marching in the streets yet again saying, 'Sex work is real work' and protesting this. It's funny because when you say it's real work, then it should be taxed like every other work."
The man said that women are making "a shit ton of money" from these social media channels, but sex workers say otherwise.
“Had I known there were rules and regulations for premium snaps I would have willingly claimed taxes on it,” one woman who runs a subscription Snapchat told Motherboard. “But for the most part it’s untouched territory.”
The woman added that she is being audited by the IRS, though it's unclear why.
Trolls say they're reaching out to sex workers pretending to inquire about subscribing to the private channels, then reporting the women via an IRS "information referral" form, which requires specific documentation the men are unlikely to have. For example, the form asks for the reportee's taxpayer identification number, physical address, legal name, and the specific amount of unreported income.
Some people responded by sending money to the women named in the campaign in a show of support.
The campaign may have started on Facebook, though by now it can be found on Twitter, 4chan, YouTube, and Reddit. People have also copied the language of the status in the viral Twitter post: "WHO REPORTED MY PREMIUM SNAPCHAT TO THE IRS? IM BEING FUCKING AUDITED" and made memes of it.
One Facebook user named Cole Brown posted a picture of a form claiming to notify the IRS of one woman's unreported income, though the form did not include all the necessary information. Other people set up a page, "Sex Worker Revenue Service," that did the same. Brown and the page administrators did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A woman named in one of the forms said she had been the victim of online harassment because of it.
One status calling the campaign "the best troll of 2018" accrued nearly 4,000 shares.
One woman's account handles that were named in the campaign also appear to no longer be active, though it wasn't clear why.