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NASA Science Competition Hacked By Racist Trolls

NASA has admitted to shutting down the public voting for one of their innovation competitions after a hacker tried to rig the vote against a trio of Black girls who were in the lead.

“On Sunday, April 29, hackers attempted to change the vote totals in the NASA OPSPARC Challenge, so managers of the challenge decided to end public voting to protect the integrity of the results,” the agency announced in a statement.

The Banneker Academic High School students—Bria Snell, India Skinner, and Mikayla Sharrieff—were competing in NASA Goddard’s Optimus Prime Spinoff Promotion and Research Challenge. Their entry involved creating technology that would purify water in public schools, and had taken an early lead in the final with a whopping 70% of the vote, according to The Root.

Now, it looks like NASA had to shut down the voting due to a hacker’s racist intentions to prevent the girls from winning. The prize is a trip to the agency’s national space program in Maryland.

The statement continued, “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 Washington Post reports say that the “anonymous posters used racial epithets, argued that the students’ project did not deserve to be a finalist and said that the black community was voting for the teens only because of their race. They urged people to vote against the Banneker trio, and one user offered to put the topic on an Internet thread about President Trump to garner more attention. They recommended computer programs that would hack the voting system to give a team of teenage boys a boost.”

The winners of the competition are to be announced in the next few weeks, a NASA Goddard spokesperson told Newsweek.  “NASA continues to support outreach and education for all Americans, and encourages all of our children to reach for the stars,” they said.

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