Libs of TikTok

School Litter Box Hoax by Robert Beatty

Libs of TikTok is a far-right anti-LGBT Twitter account owned by Chaya Raichik, a former real estate agent, that reposts social media content created by left-wing and LGBT people with hostile, mocking, or derogatory commentary. The account has over 1.5 million followers and has become influential among American conservatives and the political right.

The account harasses teachers, medical providers, and children’s hospitals. It spreads false claims and hateful commentary, especially relating to medical care of transgender children. Libs of TikTok regularly slurs LGBT people, as well as those who provide mental health services to LGBT youth and LGBT sex education to students, as ‘groomers.’ Raichik’s social media accounts have received several temporary suspensions and a permanent suspension from TikTok.

Created in November 2020, the account became Libs of TikTok in April 2021. Libs of TikTok began receiving media attention in August 2021, including from conservative commentators and news outlets. Raichik remained anonymous until her identity was revealed in April 2022 by both software developer Travis Brown and ‘The Washington Post’ journalist Taylor Lorenz. Some conservatives accused Lorenz of doxing as a result, while others defended Lorenz from criticism. ‘The Washington Post’ and Lorenz have stood by their reporting on Libs of TikTok. In August 2022, ‘Libs of TikTok’ received substantial media attention after falsely claiming that gender-affirming hysterectomies were being provided to minors at the Boston Children’s Hospital and at the Children’s National Hospital. This resulted in a harassment campaign against both hospitals, including bomb threats.

Before becoming the Libs of TikTok account, Raichik downplayed the severity of COVID-19, promoted the conspiracy theory that the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump through election fraud, and made posts showing that she was present at the 2021 United States Capitol attack. Raichik criticized the law enforcement officers at the Capitol, tweeting ‘[t]hey were rubber bullets from law enforcement. 1 hit right next to me.’ Raichik also tweeted that she did not enter the Capitol building like ‘a few crazy people’ had and called the breach ‘mostly peaceful.’ Raichik later downplayed the attack, claiming it was peaceful compared to a ‘BLM protest.’ In early 2021, the account had less than 1,000 followers.

The account’s handle was later changed to @cuomomustgo, focusing on demanding the resignation of the then-Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. The account also promoted efforts to recall the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom. By March 2021, the handle had changed to @houseplantpotus, a parody account tweeting as a houseplant in the White House of U.S. President Joe Biden. @houseplantpotus later became @libsoftiktok on April 19, 2021, promising to ‘help you find your daily dose of cringe.’ In May and June 2021, before and during Pride Month, Libs of TikTok started posting anti-LGBT commentary, including her first tweet using ‘grooming’ as a pejorative for LGBT people.

In August 2021, podcaster Joe Rogan began promoting the account on The Joe Rogan Experience, leading to a large increase in followers. Prior to being promoted by Rogan, Libs of TikTok had amassed around 65,000 followers. That same month, lawyer and Republican Party operative Grant Lally filed a trademark for Libs of TikTok as a ‘news reporter service.’ The account has been promoted by Donald Trump Jr., by journalist Glenn Greenwald and by political commentators Tucker Carlson, Jesse Watters, and Laura Ingraham, and its posts have been retweeted by Meghan McCain.

Prior to being revealed as the account creator, Raichik was interviewed anonymously on several occasions, during which she boasted that posts from the account led to the firings of several teachers. Raichik encouraged followers to join local school boards in order to remove teachers who teach about gender and sexuality. On April 19, 2022, The Washington Post published an article by journalist Taylor Lorenz which further publicized the identity of Raichik, noting that she was an Orthodox Jew who worked in real estate in Brooklyn. These details were scraped from early iterations of the Libs of TikTok Twitter account.

The article was controversial, mostly with American conservatives, who accused Lorenz of doxxing, antisemitism for mentioning Raichik’s religion, and hypocrisy for having previously spoken out against online harassment. According to ‘The Times of London,’ ‘supporters of Lorenz meanwhile pointed out that Raichik’s followers were only too enthusiastic about doxxing when it came to teachers being smeared as paedophiles.’ In a tweet, Lorenz said that her ‘whole family was doxxed again this morning … trolls have now moved on to doxxing and stalking any random friends I’ve tagged on Instagram.’ Lorenz argued that Raichik’s information was already publicly available.

Some conservatives said Lorenz’s visitation of the home of Raichik’s relatives was harassment. Journalists responded by noting that visitations are a standard part of reporting procedure. Lorenz and The Washington Post have stood by the reporting. Libs of TikTok gained about 200,000 new Twitter followers in the day after the article was published.

Following the publication of the article, Twitter user @deletedtweet161, who tracks deleted posts, said that Libs of TikTok deleted ‘at least 20 tweets’ over several days. 2,795 tweets had been deleted since the creation of the account, with some tweets being deleted to get access to the account restored following a suspension from Twitter. In May 2022, Seth Dillon, CEO of conservative Christian satire website ‘The Babylon Bee,’ announced a partnership with Libs of TikTok. Dillion later announced that he would financially support Libs of TikTok.

In June 2022, Libs of TikTok had some of their tweets removed after they posted the locations of all ages drag shows in the United States. One location, in San Lorenzo, California, was stormed by the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group. Pride events in Dallas and Coeur d’Alene have also been targeted by right-wing extremists after Libs of TikTok posted about them, with 31 Patriot Front members being arrested, before getting to their destination, for planning a riot in the Coeur d’Alene event. Raichik was reportedly encouraged to post about the Coeur d’Alene event by Dave Reilly, a local white nationalist known for participating in the 2017 Unite the Right rally. According to NPR, ‘there’s no conclusive link between the posts and the extremist groups’ activities,’ although investigators at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office believe that the Proud Boys confrontation was caused by Libs of TikTok.

In late October, Raichik drew her followers’ attention to a drag brunch being planned to benefit a local LGBT resource center in Sanford, North Carolina. Around 16 masked members of the Proud Boys showed up to protest the private event, yelling ‘groomers’ at attendants and holding signs decrying ‘state-sponsored pedophilia.’ Raichik claimed that one of the drag queens booked for the brunch was ‘inspired by Satanism,’ although the individual she mentioned in her post was not invited to perform at the brunch. After Raichik posted about the brunch, the venue’s owner said that she started to receive death threats on social media. Local law enforcement said that they were investigating threats against the event.

In November, a South Dakota State University LGBTQ student group was the target of a bomb threat being investigated by the University Police Department, after Libs Of TikTok posted alleged footage of this year’s annual drag event which was advertised to all-ages. The student group and the performer at the center of the event claim Libs of TikTok’s video spliced together scenes of this year’s event with the previous year’s event, which was age-restricted.

In August 2022, Libs of TikTok made around 13 tweets about the Boston Children’s Hospital and their gender-affirming care, falsely claiming that they were providing gender-affirming hysterectomies to minors. One of these tweets contained a reposted video in which one of the hospital’s gynecologists discusses a gender-affirming hysterectomy and Libs of TikTok captioned it as: ‘Boston Children’s Hospital is now offering ‘gender-affirming hysterectomies’ for young girls.” The video was removed after the hospital started receiving a high volume of online criticism, despite the physician not suggesting that the procedure is offered to children.

The false claims that Boston Children’s Hospital performs hysterectomies on young children were republished by prominent conservative commentators and conservative media outlets such as The Post Millennial. This resulted in the hospital, its employees, and providers receiving death threats, threats of violence, and other harassment via email, phone, and on the internet. According to Boston physician Michael O’Brien, ‘pediatric patients in Boston [Children’s Hospital] are being seen with extra security’ due to threats. The harassment campaign’s effect on hospital phone systems temporarily impaired the ability of patients to speak with providers there.

On August 30, the hospital received an anonymous bomb threat by phone which forced the hospital into a temporary lockdown, although it is unknown whether the threat was related to the harassment. On September 9, 2022, Boston Children’s Hospital received a second bomb threat, which police likewise responded to. On September 15, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced that Catherine Leavy of Westfield, Massachusetts, a frequent donor to former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, had been arrested in connection with the first bomb threat. She was charged with one count of making a false bomb threat through telephone and could face up to five years in prison. After the announcement, Libs of TikTok tweeted: ‘This is great news. Threats of violence should always be taken seriously.”[75] Before the announcement, Libs of TikTok claimed that the bomb threat came from “probably a left-wing troll.’

‘The Washington Post,’ ‘USA Today,’ ‘NPR,’ and Politifact rejected Libs of TikTok’s tweets and claims as false. According to the hospital’s website and statements, the hospital adheres to medical guidelines developed by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and gender-affirming care involving genital surgeries are only offered to patients between the ages of 18 and 35 while surgical consultations can be offered beginning at the age of 17.

On August 25, 2022, Libs of TikTok published a recording of phone operators at the Children’s National Hospital, who incorrectly suggested that a 16-year-old transgender boy could be eligible for a hysterectomy at the hospital’s gender development clinic. One employee incorrectly stated that even younger patients are eligible for a hysterectomy. Right-wing media outlets, including ‘Fox News’ and ‘The Daily Caller,’ published articles about the recording. A spokeswoman for the hospital stated: ‘None of the people who were secretly recorded by this activist group deliver care to our patients. We do not and have never performed gender-affirming hysterectomies for anyone under the age of 18.’

In September 2022, Libs of TikTok reposted a 2019 story from Cleveland TV station WEWS-TV about Akron Children’s Hospital providing gender-affirming care for transgender youth and made several other misleading posts about the hospital’s procedures. Afterwards, the hospital temporarily took down the gender-affirming care section of their website after receiving threats from social media users. The hospital also took down information about its employees and the care they provide. In response to the threats, Ohio representative Casey Weinstein tweeted: ‘Imagine going on Twitter to malign, attack and harass a children’s hospital while hiding behind an anonymous account – and being proud of it.’

On September 23, Libs of TikTok made a post about a gender-affirming care program at U.W. Health, a hospital at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In multiple posts about the hospital, Libs of TikTok highlighted one specific female doctor. That same day, Libs of TikTok posted about an adolescent clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, highlighting its practice of asking parents to step out of the room for a few minutes to give young patients a ‘safe space.’ After being reinstated following a week-long suspension from Twitter, in October 2022, Libs of TikTok tweeted about Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital offering gender-affirming care, which included a video from WMTW-TV about a transgender child who received care from the hospital. Libs of TikTok also tweeted ‘No matter how many times they try censoring and silencing us, we’re never gonna stop the work we’ve started. We’re not going anywhere.’

The account has targeted other hospitals with false claims about gender-affirming care, including a children’s hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and Phoenix Children’s Hospital, leading to phoned-in threats and harassment. After Libs of TikTok’s targeting of specific hospitals, other pediatric facilities including Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital have faced harassment and false claims about care they provide. In September 2022, in response to Libs of TikTok’s posts, Lurie Children’s Hospital increased its security and moved a transgender youth support group from in-person meetings to online meetings.

On November 20, 2022, Libs of TikTok received renewed media attention following the Colorado Springs nightclub shooting, a mass killing that took place at an LGBTQ venue in which five people were killed and dozens more were injured. Club Q, the venue targeted by the shooter, frequently hosts drag events, including those advertised to an all-ages audience. The Independent noted that Libs of TikTok often attracts negative attention to such events with her social media accounts and that harassment and threats are often sent by her followers against patrons and performers following her postings.

Hours after the shooting, Raichik used her Twitter account to target a ‘drag organization’ in the same state where the massacre took place, underlining the names of two Colorado state legislators, one of which was trans, for supporting it. The Advocate criticized the post, saying that: “In the hours after news of the Club Q shooting spread, Raichik, for example, doubled down on her anti-LGBTQ+ messaging by posting about other drag-inclusive events in the state.’ They drew attention to an interview previously published on their website with Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, in which it was stated that social media accounts such as Libs of TikTok practice stochastic terrorism by provoking extremist outrage against marginalized groups, but using ‘vague language that allows the agitator to deny responsibility for the act.’

Raichik’s accounts have been suspended many times, but, according to NPR, ‘Libs of TikTok appears to have evaded outright bans by coming right up to the edge of the platforms’ rules but not breaking them,’ adding that the account ‘does not explicitly encourage followers to threaten anyone, and typically uses its target’s own words, sometimes stripped of context, to imply wrongdoing.’ According to Joan Donovan, research director at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, deleting controversial tweets before a platform takes action is a common tactic for digital actors spreading disinformation. Libs of TikTok has used this tactic to avoid additional penalties from Twitter while still making an impact on a large online audience.

On December 9, the Twitter Files published by Elon Musk and Bari Weiss revealed that Twitter had operated to limit Libs of TikTok’s reach, with internal documents showing that the account was targeted for suspensions for indirectly breaking the site’s rules and was subject to forms of shadow banning. Twitter CEO Elon Musk later stated that the site’s content guidelines were historically enforced against accounts expressing right-wing views while being ignored for those that expressed left-wing views. Conversely, Evan Urquhart of ‘Slate’ argued that Weiss’ own publishing revealed that Libs of TikTok was receiving preferential treatment, with moderators directed not to take any action against the account and to instead elevate issues to higher management. Urquhart further argued that Weiss’ portrayal of Libs of TikTok dangerously conflated conservative opinions with stochastic terrorism and extremism.

The account has been criticized for spreading hoaxes, including the litter boxes in schools hoax about bathroom accommodations for students that identified as cats, and for spreading false claims such as that students in a second-grade class in Austin, Texas were being taught about furries, and that U.S. Representative Katie Porter had argued that pedophilia is not a crime after Porter simply lamented that LGBT people were being slandered as pedophiles and groomers on social media. The account has also been accused of posting defrauded footage of drag events, resulting in bomb threats against the audience and the performer.

Libs of TikTok has denied the existence of systemic racism, but argued that racism against white people was ‘flourishing’ in the United States. Reporting by ‘Slate’ stated that ‘Raichik’s feed is colored by an intense hostility to liberals generally, but she holds an especially pronounced animosity toward LGBTQ people, city dwellers, and Black people who have been killed at the hands of police,’ noting that the account has defended and endorsed incidents of police brutality, including the murder of George Floyd and the killing of Ma’Khia Bryant.

The most popular video posted on Libs of TikTok, with 5.7 million views, was taken by a female student of color at Arizona State University and shows her and her friend repeatedly asking a white male student to leave a multicultural center due to a ‘Police Lives Matter’ sticker on his laptop. After the video went viral, ASU investigated and then reprimanded the two female students.

After gaining popularity on Twitter, Libs of TikTok has since expanded to additional social media platforms, including Instagram, YouTube, Rumble, Gab and Gettr. Libs of TikTok also sells merchandise on e-commerce platform Shopify and sells subscriptions on online newsletter platform Substack. According to Erin Reed, a content creator and legislative researcher, ‘Libs of TikTok relies on monetizing through Shopify and Substack. They use these funds in continuing their work to target children’s hospitals and getting them shut down.’

Raichik made her first-ever in-person televised appearance on a December 2022 episode of Tucker Carlson Today. In the episode, she stated, ‘The LGBTQ community has become this cult, and it’s so captivating, and it pulls people in so strongly… They’re just evil. They’re bad people. They’re just evil people, and they want to groom kids. They’re recruiting.’ Following her appearance, some news outlets have linked her to a person who may have trespassed on federal property during the January 6 United States Capitol attack.

2 Comments to “Libs of TikTok”

  1. this is insane and dangerous and those who follow her, just as much so

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