Dozens of bomb threats, death threats, and other forms of harassment have targeted schools, hospitals, libraries and Pride events, especially drag shows, shortly after posts appeared on the virulently anti-LGBTQ+ social media account Libs of TikTok. The progressive analysis group Media Matters for America conducted research that documented “25 institutions, events and individuals who reported threats in the days after being targeted by Libs of TikTok, and another 8 who reported harassment—a total of at least 33 instances of threats or harassment.”
Media Matters on Thursday published a timeline of threats and harassment seemingly sparked by Libs of TikTok posts.
Here are several of them:
LoTT targeted a drag queen story hour event in San Lorenzo, California; the event was stormed.
The event was stormed by men believed to be members of the Proud Boys, who issued threats to patrons. [MMFA, 6/13/22.]
LoTT targeted Denver Public Schools; the district received bomb threats.
LoTT targeted Boston Children’s Hospital; the hospital received violent threats.
Following posts about Boston Children’s Hospital, members of far-right online forums suggested people “start executing these ‘doctors.’” From August 30, 2022, to November 16, 2022, Boston Children’s Hospital reportedly received three bomb threats, including one in which the caller cited the hospital’s gender-affirming care program. The threats were deemed credible by the FBI and later resulted in an arrest and a guilty plea. [Facebook, 8/11/22; Twitter/X, 8/16/22; Media Matters, 8/18/22; Vice, 8/17/22; NBC Boston, 9/28/23; Boston.com, 8/16/22; The Boston Globe, 11/16/22]
In an investigative report published Thursday, USA TODAY interviewed Chaya Raichik, a former real estate agent from Brooklyn who created the Twitter account in November 2020. She changed its handle to Libs of TikTok in April 2021. Raichik has since become a major far-right influencer. USA TODAY reported that the account, with its anti-woke conservative culture war agenda, now has more than 2.6 million followers on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Its posts are regularly picked up by Fox News and other conservative media outlets. The newspaper added that on X, the account has been “has been amplified by the platform’s owner Elon Musk.”
Raichik told USA TODAY she created the account to raise awareness about what she considered “a clear pattern of the sexualization of children going on in public schools” and elsewhere in America, which she viewed as “super harmful.” She added that she opposes violence and there is no proof that the threats have come from her followers. That’s because the perpetrators of the threats remain unknown and almost no arrests have been made.
Based on Media Matters research, USA Today wrote that “whoever is making the threats, the posts show a clear pattern.” USA TODAY has confirmed dozens of bomb threats, death threats, and other harassment after Libs of TikTok posts since February 2022.
USA TODAY wrote:
Numerous news reports have covered individual threats, noting the target had also been mentioned by Libs of TikTok. But the new analysis of years of tweets, including archives of many Raichik has since deleted, shows the pattern is more extensive and pervasive than has been previously known – and that threats, specifically against schools, have ratcheted up significantly in the past two months.
Media Matters used searches of published news reports to help identify more than 30 possible threat incidents. USA TODAY verified bomb, death and other threats in more than two dozen cases.
The research most likely undercounts the total number of cases. Other threats may never be reported to police or the media, and some targets are reluctant to publicize their plight for fear of drawing even more harassment. …
Hospitals have been evacuated; schools and libraries have cleared classrooms and canceled lessons while police officers search for bombs. Bookstores, Pride parades, cafes, even a dog rescue center, have had to lock down for fear of reprisals — and violence.
Media Matters’ LBGTQ+ Program Director Ari Drennen told USA TODAY: “We can only insulate ourselves from what’s happening on social media for so long. In a country where so many people have the ability to take things into their own hands, that’s a very real worry.”
Libs of TikTok regularly shares TikTok and Instagram videos recorded by leftist progressives, accompanied by Raichik’s own derisive comments. It also shares videos and posts from other far-right accounts, which are often inaccurate and hateful.
Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic, told USA TODAY that once Raichik posts something “it just gets amplified to an order of magnitude larger audience. Any tweet she puts out gets—instantly—millions of views and potentially tens of thousands of retweets and likes. So it gets wide dissemination.”
Raichik has made individual doctors and medical facilities providing care to LBGTQ+ patients, including minors, a particular target. Media Matters reported that on March 16, 2022, Libs of TikTok targeted Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, part of the Oregon Health and Science University’s health system, in a Twitter post for providing gender-affirming care to young people. Replies to the post included comments calling the doctors “perverted demons.” The hospital and its staff soon reported receiving harassment and threats.
“Most of these messages cited social media posts that contained inaccurate or misleading information about life-saving and medically necessary care for gender-diverse patients,” read a hospital statement provided to USA TODAY. “OHSU and its staff continue to be subjected to anti-transgender harassment today.”
After Libs of TikTok repeatedly targeted Boston Children’s Hospital in August 2022 for its gender-affirming program, the hospital reported receiving a heavy volume of hostile internet activity, phone calls, and harassing emails, including threats of violence toward doctors and staff members. The local U.S. attorney announced an investigation into the threats, and in September federal agents arrested 37-year-old Catherine Leavy, who pleaded guilty to making a false bomb threat against the hospital.
Vice News reported that in September at least 11 schools or school districts that were targeted by Libs of TikTok over anti-LGBTQ+ grooming conspiracies received bomb threats just days later.
In response to a question about the pattern of harassment that follows her social media posts, Raichik told USA TODAY that she’s merely reposting what institutions and individuals have already put out on social media. “If an individual posts publicly on TikTok, the goal of TikTok is to get views,” Raichik told USA TODAY. “That’s why people post on TikTok—they want to become famous, they want clicks, views.”
But that overlooks the fact that Raichik’s posts always include some kind of derogatory commentary and encourage her followers to contact the original poster directly. And USA TODAY noted that Raichik also regularly posts “clandestine photos and videos” that have been sent to her, “presumably without the permission of a hospital, school clinic or library.” The newspaper said she acknowledged posting some material that turned out to be doctored or fake.
And Raichik is not above issuing threats on her own. Last month, Raichik, who is an Orthodox Jew, demanded in a post on X that the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group that combats antisemitism and hate groups, remove her name from its “Glossary of Extremism and Hate.” She claimed the ADL had defamed her and lumped her in with terrorist organizations like Hamas in its online database. She threatened to take unspecified legal action against the ADL if her name wasn’t removed by Oct. 31.
On Oct. 28, in another post on X, Raichik triumphantly proclaimed that the ADL had “finally caved after immense pressure and threats of legal action and REMOVED my name from their Glossary of Extremism.”
The Advocate, an LGBTQ+ news outlet, said the ADL confirmed the temporary removal of Raichik’s name from its glossary. An ADL spokesperson told The Advocate:
“While we maintain any potential litigation is meritless, we have temporarily removed the entry from our Glossary of Extremism while we continue to review the matter. Other material reflective of Libs of TikTok’s odious views about, and harmful impact to, the LGBTQ+ community remain on the ADL website.”
But Raichik couldn’t resist getting in a derogatory comment about the ADL in a subsequent post on X. She wrote:
“Just goes to show that the ADL knows I’m not a violent extremist. The decision to put me on their “Glossary of Extremism” was all political theater. They’re a propaganda tool of the radical Left and they went too far with this.”
Her supporters on X congratulated Raichik and urged her to still sue the ADL.