Anatomy of an online outrage mob
When right-wing influencer Libs Of TikTok tags educators, school districts and medical facilities on Twitter, her fans spam their accounts with harassment
The official Twitter accounts of hospitals, school districts, and other medical and educational institutions don't generally get a ton of engagement. This changes drastically, however, when right-wing social media influencer Chaya Raichik tweets about them from her @libsoftiktok account, which at the time of this writing has just over 1.9 million followers. The school district and hospital accounts tagged in her tweets quickly get deluged with hundreds or thousands of hostile replies and mentions, some of which contain threats of real-world violence. This phenomenon is extremely easy to spot when one graphs the volume of tweets and replies tagging the accounts in question.
During the period from September 24th, 2022 to February 10th, 2023, @libsoftiktok tagged 56 school district accounts, 9 university accounts, and 7 hospital accounts in viral tweets, a total of 72 accounts. (For the sake of this analysis, tweets that received at least 500 retweets were considered “viral”.) Every single one of these accounts experienced a sizable spike in mention volume in the 24 hours immediately after being tagged by @libsoftiktok. On average, these accounts went from 0.75 mentions per hour to 51.7 mentions per hour, an increase of over 6700%. Even the most popular of the accounts tagged, @CarnegieMellon, experienced a 336% increase in mentions in the 24 hours after being featured by @libsoftiktok.
This spike in tweets mentioning the school district and hospital accounts is accompanied by a drastic change in the content of the tweets and replies mentioning them. Under normal circumstances, the topics of these tweets are related to the official function of the accounts — the school district accounts generally get tagged in tweets about topics like education, school athletics, and events in the community, and the hospitals get tagged in tweets about health-related topics. This changed drastically in the 24 hours immediately after the accounts get mentioned by @libsoftiktok, however; the usual mundane discussions are drowned out by comments falsely claiming that the school districts/hospitals in question are run by “groomers” and “pedophiles” and are engaged in child abuse.
The barrages of tweets that invariably follow @libsoftiktok’s tweets about hospitals, school districts, and universities frequently include threats of real-world violence directed at the aforementioned medical and educational institutions. (Violence involving wood chippers is a recurring theme of these threats.) The tweets in the collage below are just a sample; one can find hundreds of additional proposals of violence against the employees of school districts, hospitals, and LGBTQ people in general by scrolling through the replies to popular @libsoftiktok tweets.
Although Twitter does sometimes act quickly to remove threats of this sort, many (including most of those in the screenshots above) remain online for extended periods of time. As has been repeatedly reported, these threats of violence have not been confined to the internet; institutions targeted by @libsoftiktok have been subjected to bomb threats on multiple occasions, and barrages of angry calls from her followers disrupted the ability of patients to contact healthcare providers.
In conclusion, there exists a strong and demonstrable correlation between @libsoftiktok tweeting about a medical or educational institution and that institution’s official Twitter account subsequently being bombarded with harassment and threats. Although Twitter has temporarily suspended the @libsoftiktok account on multiple occasions (generally for a week at a time), the account has yet to be banned outright, and in almost all cases the @libsoftiktok tweets that triggered harassment swarms have remained online.
This article expands on observations and research from this September 2022 Twitter thread:
Should note that in the so-called "Twitter Files" there was a screen grab of LOTT in admin tools clearly indicating that the LOTT has unique support from twitter (stemming back to the Jack days, but continued under Musk) - notably that it's an unbannable account, regardless of how much real-world terror it creates.