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Harry Styles Fans Are Using VPNs to Scam Billboard Charts

* Harry Styles fans have been using VPNs to game Billboard charts
* Debut album premiered last week
* Online fan group sent out guides on how to help manipulate chart rankings

When Harry Styles’ debut single, “Sign of the Times,” was released last month, fans the world over quickly headed to Spotify to hear the new song. Unfortunately, a glitch in Spotify’s streaming algorithm made the single unavailable for a few hours, bringing the former One Direction singer’s streams to a grinding halt. Pop fans around the world were livid, but not for the reason you’d think.

Instead of being angry at the fact they weren’t able to listen to the song, Styles fans were mad because every second wasted was hurting his chances of topping the Billboard charts. As one fan told The Verge last week, “By the time everything was fixed, Harry had lost millions of streams. We wanted number one.”

As a result of this temporary glitch, a cadre of Styles fans decided to ban together and take the pop star’s popularity into their own hands. The group, nicknamed the Harry Styles Promo Team, immediately created a digital guide that urged fans around the world to boost Styles’ chart numbers by listening to his songs with a VPN.

(You can read our guide on how to use a VPN here.)

Because the U.S. Billboard chart takes online streaming into account — which only includes people who are streaming from an IP address within the United States — fans around the world were able to essentially game the chart’s rankings by listening to his songs from a U.S.-based VPN location. Whether or not this group had any effect on the album’s ranking is still up in the air, though reports say that his debut full-length album, which premiered earlier this month, is already climbing the charts.

This isn’t the first time Billboard charts have been scammed, nor will it be the last. But while the use of a VPN to help boost Styles’ streaming stats may not have had much of a lasting impression, it’s a standing testament to the ever-changing world of digital media, and in the end is a symbol of just how adamant Styles’ fans are.