Tuesday morning, well-known Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz broke conservative Twitter after the paper published an article that revealed the identity of a right-wing social media troll who had gone through great lengths to remain anonymous.
The account, @LibsOfTikTok, sets out to “expose liberals” by taking their content and purposefully putting it in front of an unreceptive audience. Many times the subjects were LGBTQ+, leaving to harassment. As of publication, the account had 872,700 followers – up about 200,000 since the Post published Lorenz's piece.
The person behind the account is a Brooklyn real estate professional, Chaya Raichik, who gained popularity over time after several false starts with various names.
In the report, Lorenz explained that in 2020, Raichik created an account on which she minimized the coronavirus, cast doubt on the 2020 election, and promoted other conspiracy theories. She cycled through several screen names until landing on Libs of TikTok a year ago. She got her big break when Joe Rogan talked about the account on his podcast.
Right wing media personalities and social media influencers, who support the messaging of Libs of TikTok, took to Twitter to attack Lorenz for “doxxing” a private citizen. Doxxing is the practice of releasing somebody’s private information online. In contrast, Lorenz reported on publicly available information to identify a person with a high-profile media following and influence on the public agenda.
"Libs of TikTok has become an agenda-setter in right-wing online discourse,” Lorenz wrote. “The content it surfaces shows a direct correlation with the recent push in legislation and rhetoric directly targeting the LGBTQ+ community."
Republican state lawmakers have recently begun to propose and pass legislation, such as the Florida "don’t say gay" law targeting teachers and LGBTQ+ individuals. Experts say there is a direct linkage between the messaging on Libs of TikTok and tyis type of legislation.
Ari Drennen, LGBTQ program director for Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog group, told the Post, "Libs of TikTok is basically acting as a wire service for the broader right-wing media ecosystem. It's been shaping public policy in a real way and affecting teachers' ability to feel safe in their classrooms."
To wit, Lorenz pointed out that Glenn Greenwald, an online influencer and former journalist who is gay, has amplified Libs of TikTok's profile to his 1.8 million followers. Others have also over the past year.
Right-wing influencer Ben Shapiro, who promotes anti-LGBTQ+ content from Libs of TikTok, tweeted a thread in which he claimed that Lorenz's piece was deceptive.
"The Taylor Lorenz article is so wildly dishonest," he wrote. "She mischaracterizes nearly everything deliberately..."
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican from Georgia, who is openly hostile toward the LGBTQ+ community, retweeted a video from Tucker Carlson's FOX News show, commenting, "Never give in @libsoftiktok!"
Raichik has appeared on Carlson's show in the past, but the host kept her identity concealed. In Tuesday evening's program clip, Carlson did not refer to her by name but rather by Raichik's online pseudonym.
In the clip, Raichik told Carlson that she has been receiving threats but that she would continue posting her content.
"I'm now in a location where I don't think anybody would find me," she said. Many have pointed out that the account's content has caused harassment, firings, and other serious consequences for various other, mostly LGBTQ+ identified folks.
In Lorenz’s piece, she reported of a former English teacher, Tyler Winn, who was fired from his job after being declared a “groomer” by LibsofTikTok. But this isn’t an isolated incident. LibsOfTikTok is voice in an overall climate of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric that some correlate to an increase of anti-LGBTQ+ incidents.
The Advocate reported Tuesday that Texas Angels Boutique owner Evan Berryhill-Jewell had attacked Charles Hardy and his partner in San Angelo during a drunken rant and assault that went viral online. The incident is under criminal investigation by the San Angelo Police.
Before that, a man verbally attacked Pride Media print editorial director Neal Broverman and his husband and two children as the family enjoyed a trip on an AMTRAK train in California.
Drennen believes that accounts like Libs of TikTok are undermining the country's progress made over time toward LGBTQ+ equality because they influence the political conversation.
"LibsofTikTok is shaping our entire political conversation about the rights of LGBTQ people to participate in society," Drennen said. "It feels like they're single-handedly taking us back a decade in terms of the public discourse around LGBTQ rights. It's been like nothing we've ever really seen."