tiktok extremism
TikTok's logo. (Shutterstock)

An anonymous Twitter account that has helped drive the recent spike in anti-LGBTQ crackdowns and possibly was present at the Jan. 6 insurrection has been unmasked.

The "Libs of TikTok" account posted video of a woman teaching sexual education to children in Kentucky, branding the woman a "predator," and the same clip appeared the next night on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program, and its tweets reach millions of social media users and helps set the agenda in right-wing discourse online -- but the Washington Post has tracked down and identified the account's owner.

“Libs of TikTok is basically acting as a wire service for the broader right-wing media ecosystem,” said Ari Drennen, LGBTQ program director for the watchdog group Media Matters. “It’s been shaping public policy in a real way, and affecting teachers’ ability to feel safe in their classrooms.”

The account was created in early November 2020 by Brooklyn real estate agent Chaya Raichik, who cycled through Twitter handles and areas of interest -- COVID denial, 2020 election conspiracies and other conservative political topics -- with uneven success before landing on the Libs of TikTok angle in April 2021 and getting her first big break a few months later.

"Just four months after getting started, Libs of TikTok got its big break: Joe Rogan started promoting the account to the millions of listeners of his hit podcast," the Post reported. "He mentioned it several times on the show in August, then again in late September. 'Libs of TikTok is one of the greatest f---ing accounts of all time,' he said. With his seal of approval, Raichik’s following skyrocketed."

Conservatives quickly lashed out at The Washington Post for publishing Raichik's name.

"It’s not really in anyone's interest to know who Libs of TikTok is because all she does is archive and collect publicly available videos that you can look for yourself if you weren’t so lazy. Doxing her is like doxing the paperboy for delivering your newspapers," conservative commentator Ian Miles Cheong said on Twitter.

"The Washington Post 'exposed' @libsoftiktok for what crime exactly? For the sin of showing America exactly what leftists have in store for their children. If you're effective and anonymous, you can expect to be doxxed. It's a last-ditch effort to intimidate you into silence," added Breitbart reporter Alana Mastrangelo.

But others argued that Raichik had made herself into a public figure.

The account has also been featured in the New York Post, the Federalist, the Post Millennial and other right-wing news sites, and it has been retweeted by Meghan McCain and Glenn Greenwald, and Raichik appeared anonymously on Tucker Carlson's Fox News program just last week to complain about being temporarily suspended for violating Twitter’s community guidelines.

“Given that ‘Libs of TikTok’ has (it turns out) given interviews to The Daily Caller & The NY Post and appeared on Tucker Carlson, I'm inclined to say she's enough of a public figure to be fair game,” remarked Cathy Young of The Bulwark.

Libs of TikTok found the most success with anti-trans tweets, and Raichik’s page leaned hard into "groomer" allegations by January and called for the firing of any teacher who comes out as gay to their students.

“The role I’ve seen this account playing is finding new characters for right-wing propaganda,” said ACLU media strategist Gillian Branstetter. “It’s relying on the endless stream of content from TikTok and the Internet to cast any individual trans person as a new villain in their story.”

She popularized the fake conspiracy theory that schools were installing litter boxes in bathrooms for children who identify as cats. According to the Washington Post, Raichik has also amped up anti-LGBTQ bigotry with other dubious claims that have led to harassment campaigns and directly impacted legislation -- especially Florida's so-called "don't say gay" law.

“I follow, like and retweet libsoftiktok," said Gov. Ron DeSantis' press secretary Christina Pushaw, who said the account was an influence on the bill. "My interactions with that account are public."

Raichik boasts that her tweets have gotten teachers fired, and she has encouraged her followers to run for school board and other local offices.

She has taken steps to obscure her identity, but software developer Travis Brown found her account's history and posted a thread detailing her profile's changes, and Glenn Greenwald confirmed that a house visited by a Post reporter in Los Angeles belonged to Raichik’s family.

Raichik claims to run the account alone, but Grant Lally, a lawyer and Republican operative, filed a trademark for Libs of TikTok in August as a "news reporter service," but he declined to comment.

“I don’t do this for money or fame,” Raichik told the New York Post in February, on the condition of anonymity. “I’m not some politician or blue-check journalist. I feel like there are so many small stories that are so important that aren’t getting out — and that’s what I’m here for.”

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