Libs of TikTok, a Twitter account that has gained a massive following for sharing disturbing and often strange videos of purported progressive bias in education and other facets of society, is at the center of a media firestorm.
The founder of Libs of TikTok is reportedly in hiding after the release of a Washington Post article from columnist Taylor Lorenz titled, “Meet the woman behind Libs of TikTok, secretly fueling the right’s outrage machine.”
The article, which has sparked a storm of reactions, publicly names the anonymous account owner.
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It’s a well-known fact the woman behind the account intentionally kept her identity secret, a quest now obliterated. The central question we’ll explore here is: Why?
According to the article, Lorenz’s effort to find the woman’s name — which Faithwire has declined to include out of respect for her initial wishes — wasn’t strenuous, as the details were already publicly available, though it did require some internet sleuthing on the part of a software developer.
Still, the decision to unveil the Libs of TikTok creator’s identity with such fanfare has sparked accusations that Lorenz is guilty of doxxing, which is defined as an act intended “to publicly identify or publish private information about (someone) especially as a form of punishment or revenge.”
Lorenz’s defenders have pushed back against these doxxing claims, noting no phone numbers or personal pieces of information outside of the woman’s identity were publicly divulged. These individuals, including some journalists, have compared the WaPo columnist’s actions to routine journalistic efforts.
It should be noted that an archived version of the article includes what appears to be a direct link to a physical address tied to the individual; that link is no longer present in the live version of the piece.
Setting aside that part of the debate, one fact seems indisputable: Lorenz was well aware of the Libs of TikTok founder’s efforts to shield her identity, writing in her article: “As the account has grown in prominence, [the founder] has taken steps to obscure her identity.”
Plus, it’s well-known the Libs of TikTok founder has appeared in numerous interviews via phone and without revealing her name.
Why Was Libs of TikTok’s Identity Unveiled?
So, here’s the natural question that follows: Why did Lorenz write a diatribe seemingly aimed, in part, at unveiling the viral account owner’s secret identity?
The columnist spent part of Tuesday morning seemingly explaining her reasoning, arguing the article exposes what she sees as the dangers Libs of TikTok poses to the LGBTQ community writ large.
“Lots of convo about the ‘harm’ of covering a powerful online figure, but not much [about] the harm done to the average LGBTQ+ [people] the [account] seeks to drive out of schools and public life,” Lorenz tweeted. “I hope people read this whole story and understand this account’s impact.”
Lots of convo about the “harm” of covering a powerful online figure, but not much abt the harm done to the average LGBTQ+ ppl the acct seeks to drive out of schools and public life. I hope people read this whole story and understand this account’s impact https://t.co/p5dNT7tHa3 pic.twitter.com/LMIwlRL3QR— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) April 19, 2022
Amid Lorenz’s attempts to explain why she published the article and the service she believes she’s offering readers, she focused on the “power” and influence of the Libs of TikTok account.
She said the formerly anonymous owner of the account has “become a powerful cross-platform social media influencer, spreading anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and fueling the right-wing media’s outrage machine.”
Lorenz added her contention that the story explains how “one woman’s virality and influence spreads across the internet and warps our political discourse.”
.@LibsofTikTok has become a powerful cross-platform social media influencer, spreading anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and fueling the right wing media’s outrage machine.— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) April 19, 2022
I wrote abt the account, the woman behind it, and why it matters 🧵https://t.co/p5dNT7Li1B
From live tweeting from the Jan 6th insurrection to cosplaying as Joe Biden’s houseplant, this is a story about how one woman’s virality and influence spreads across the internet and warps our political discourse https://t.co/p5dNT7Li1B— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) April 19, 2022
At the center of all of this consternation seems to be frustration over the account’s influence, not only over conservatives in general, but also over legislation surrounding the intersection of LGBTQ issues and public schools.
While Libs of TikTok certainly makes an impact in spreading videos around, Lorenz’s article makes it appear as though the Twitter account has somehow almost singlehandedly dominated culture in some distinctive or unparalleled way.
“The account has emerged as a powerful force on the Internet, shaping right-wing media, impacting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and influencing millions by posting viral videos aimed at inciting outrage among the right,” Lorenz’s article reads, later adding, “Libs of TikTok has become an agenda-setter in right-wing online discourse, and the content it surfaces shows a direct correlation with the recent push in legislation and rhetoric directly targeting the LGBTQ+ community.”
This, of course, offers a lens into one of the potential reasons the identity was revealed in the first place: to stop an informational channel in its tracks before it attains additional success.
Potential Political Concerns
Answering the “why” surrounding the reveal of the Libs of TikTok owner’s identity is difficult to do without diving a bit deeper into the political considerations surrounding education and the LGBTQ debate.
It’s no secret parents across the country have been increasingly frustrated by claims of critical race theory (CRT) and gender discussions in public schools.
And despite the furor over Florida’s newfound Parental Rights in Education law, which critics have mischaracterized as the “Don’t Say Gay bill,” the majority of parents actually have no problem with the legislation.
In fact, a Golden/TIPP poll, which surveyed 1,305 adults from April 6-8, found 57% of Americans “agree strongly” or “agree somewhat” with the bill. And that’s not all: 51% of Democrats also agreed.
As Faithwire previously reported, the word “gay” doesn’t appear in the bill’s text, with the law, in practice, banning educators from teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation from pre-K through third grade. Despite the media’s fixation on the bill’s faux name, people generally understand its efforts.
Now, let’s come back to Lorenz’s article. She said the steady stream of content posted by Libs of TikTok has been “directly impacting legislation,” citing Florida as an example. But the report didn’t stop on the legislative front; it also touched on the broader political impact Libs of TikTok could have on the upcoming midterms.
“On a recent podcast, [the founder of Libs of TikTok] said that as her following continues to grow, the fullest extent of her impact may not be realized until the elections this fall,” Lorenz wrote. “She has encouraged her audience to overtake school boards and run in local elections.”
The political implications are impossible to ignore. If Libs of TikTok had a more limited influence, it’s hard to imagine there would be any effort to thwart the account or unveil its owner. But the account is making an impact, albeit one seen by Lorenz and others as overwhelmingly negative.
Oddly, Lorenz spends virtually no time pondering whether any of the videos shown by Libs of TikTok are concerning, problematic, or worthy of parental concern. The narrative is set and the finer details are treated as unimportant.
The Truly Bizarre Part of the Story
One of the more bizarre elements of the story surrounds Lorenz herself, who made headlines just weeks ago for comments she made in an interview about online harassment.
She was the subject of an MSNBC report about internet abuse. Unfortunately, she said the interview led to even more harassment, according to The New York Post.
This was Taylor Lorenz a couple of weeks ago.— Avi Yemini (@OzraeliAvi) April 19, 2022
She was crying victim of “harassment”.
Today she tracked down and harassed family members of the @libsoftiktok account for an article she’s working on.
It turns out Taylor’s the perpetrator, not victim.pic.twitter.com/CifXGvASCV
Lorenz explained in that interview how past online harassment had given her PTSD and even made her suicidal. She said such harassment can destroy one’s life — a legitimate topic that has been given increased attention as the effects of social media and technology become more apparent.
“They’ll threaten children — they’ll threaten my parents. I’ve had to remove every single social tie. I have severe PTSD from this,” she reportedly said. “I contemplated suicide, and it got really bad. You feel like any little piece of information that gets out on you will be used by the worst people on the internet to destroy your life, and it’s so isolating.”
But after the MSNBC segment purportedly led to even more online hate, Lorenz tweeted a response that is getting a lot of attention in light of her Libs of Tik Tok exposé.
If your segment or story on “online harassment” leads to even worse online harassment for your subjects, you fucked up royally and should learn how to cover these things properly before ever talking about them again.— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) April 3, 2022
“If your segment or story on ‘online harassment’ leads to even worse online harassment for your subjects, you f***** up royally and should learn how to cover these things properly before ever talking about them again,” she tweeted.
Lorenz then added, “I could teach an entire class on this stuff, but the simple fact is that very few people in power in newsrooms actually understand how the modern internet and online landscape works, and so they continually give ammo to bad actors.”
Insane that she has to be in a safe place because @TaylorLorenz chose to bully her and call it “journalism.” It’s a Twitter account FFS. If you don’t like the content tell the morons featured to stop making their idiotic videos and posting them publicly. https://t.co/DvlZXdKct3— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) April 19, 2022
Critics have naturally pondered why Lorenz would, just weeks later, divulge the identity of the Libs of TikTok founder, knowing how “ammo” given to “bad actors” can lead to negative consequences and online abuse for the subject of an article or piece.
That negativity has reportedly already roiled the Libs of TikTok founder’s life, as she tweeted Tuesday she’s “holed up” in a safe place and is grateful for the support she has received.
Words cannot express how appreciative I am of the support I’m receiving right now. Thankfully I’m currently holed up in a safe location. I’m confident we will get through this and come out even stronger. Grateful for all the thoughts and prayers ❤️— Libs of Tik Tok (@libsoftiktok) April 19, 2022
“Words cannot express how appreciative I am of the support I’m receiving right now. Thankfully, I’m currently holed up in a safe location,” she wrote. “I’m confident we will get through this and come out even stronger. Grateful for all the thoughts and prayers.”
But that hasn’t stopped the Libs of TikTok account from tweeting.
Among other messages, the owner shared a past video of Lorenz purportedly speaking about online harassment being used as a tool to silence women and minorities.
“Taylor Lorenz says online harassment is a huge problem because it’s a tool to silence people, especially women,” she wrote. “The irony.”
Taylor Lorenz says online harassment is a huge problem because it’s a tool to silence people especially women. The irony pic.twitter.com/Rgxb6odlgd— Libs of Tik Tok (@libsoftiktok) April 19, 2022
As for Lorenz, she’s seemingly defending her actions as within the bounds journalistic ethics.
“Reporters make phone calls, send messages, show up places, and knock on doors when reporting out a story,” she wrote. “I reported this story out extensively, using every tool I had, to ensure I had the correct woman.”
We’ll have to see where the story goes next, though it’s undoubtedly a fascinating example of the culture, media, and social media wars colliding in spectacular form.
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