In Los Angeles, a teacher who is transgender went on their TikTok account to denounce the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in the United States.
That video was then shared by a far-right Twitter account called ‘Libs of Tiktok’ to its more than 1.1 million followers, resulting in a dramatic uptick in the number of death threats and insults they received online.
According to Skye Tooley, they first received messages from people telling them to “leave kids alone” after their video was re-shared by the account.
“But then it just kept increasing to them calling me a ‘groomer’ and using words like ‘pedophile’, they said.
“And then I started getting death threats, whether in my emails, DMS, or in the comments section.”
Tooley is not alone. Over the last two years, ‘Libs of TikTok’ has shared videos made by liberal, LGBTQ+ influencers in the United States.
Many of these creators are teachers who use TikTok to promote LGBTQ+ rights and inclusive education.
According to Media Matters for America, a research center focusing on misinformation in the US, ‘Libs of TikTok’ has tagged more than 222 educational institutions in 2022 alone.
The account has bragged about teachers losing their jobs after it re-posted their content; some of the people targeted by the account have received hundreds or even thousands of hate comments; and ‘Libs of TikTok’ regularly re-shares posts equating these teachers to ‘groomers’ for educating students on the LGBTQ+ community.
Tooley said receiving hate comments after the account posted their video was “dehumanising”.
“It dehumanises us and makes us seem less than human and deserving fewer rights and protections than cis people,” they added.
Twitter has temporarily suspended the account several times, but it is still active. One of the reasons the account is influential is because it is promoted by popular conservative voices in the US.
Joe Rogan said it was “one of the greatest F***ing accounts of all time” on his podcast. And Fox News anchors talk about its posts on their shows.
Christina Pushaw, who is the press secretary for Florida governor Ron DeSantis, regularly interacts with the account.
DeSantis recently signed into law a controversial bill that has been dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which prevents some teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ topics in the classroom.
Tooley told Euronews that creators have reached out to support each other. And they personally have unions and lawyers to support them.
But they also want more action to be taken on a federal level.
“There needs to be actual steps that counteract what’s happening … to say that [LGBTQ+ education] needs to be taught in the classroom, and that Trans people need to be protected.”
Both Twitter and ‘Libs of TikTok’ were contacted, but they did not respond to our request for comment.