Boston Children’s Hospital’s patients and providers have found themselves the targets of violent threats following a campaign of disinformation on Twitter, driven in large part by Chaya Raichik, who operates the social media account “Libs of TikTok.” After news broke of the threats against the hospital, Raichik and other anti-LGBTQ provocateurs doubled down on their harassment while expanding their campaign to include other hospitals providing gender-affirming care. Raichik made nearly identical posts attacking Boston Children’s Hospital on Facebook, which reportedly banned Libs of TikTok yesterday, but Raichik still remains active on Twitter, Raichik's biggest platform.
Raichik has targeted multiple other hospitals and medical providers, leading to harassment and violent threats from her followers, which include more than a million Twitter users.
On August 9, anti-trans activist Chris Elston — best known for traveling across Canada harassing hospitals and their staff over gender-affirming policies for trans youth — tweeted out a video from Boston Children’s Hospital to falsely claim it was performing hysterectomies and genital surgeries on minors. The targeting of Boston Children’s Hospital escalated when Raichik shared the video with her 1.3 million Twitter followers, tagging the hospital and making the same false claims about it supposedly “now offering ‘gender affirming hysterectomies’ for young" people. In reality, as noted by PolitiFact and later confirmed by the hospital, “patients must be 18 or older and have a letter from a medical doctor stating they have ‘persistent, well-documented, gender dysphoria’” in order to qualify for the procedure.
Following Raichik’s social media posts on Boston Children’s Hospital, members of far-right online forums threatened to “start executing these ‘doctors’” and saying that “demons like this don’t deserve to breathe.” More death threats were also made against the hospital and its employees on Twitter, some of which are detailed below. The Department of Justice announced Wednesday it is investigating the violent threats directed at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Libs of TikTok engages in targeted harassment of Boston Children’s Hospital, and doubles down on attacks after reports of death threats against hospital and staff
Raichik’s August 11 tweet mischaracterizing the video has now garnered more than 15,000 likes. That tweet, along with another several days later that also tagged the hospital, received thousands more likes and shares than any other tweets naming and attacking Boston Children’s Hospital since Elston’s tweet first dropped. Responses to Raichik’s tweets reveal a pattern of her followers accusing the hospital and its employees of being “groomers,” “monsters,” and “demons,” and even comparing the doctors to Nazi figures such as Josef Mengele. Other responses are explicitly threatening, calling for people to “take justice into your own hands.”
Between August 11-15, Raichik made at least seven tweets naming the hospital, often directly tagging its Twitter handle.
When Boston Children’s Hospital and its staff reported harassment and violent threats being directed at them in response to the anti-trans social media campaign, Raichik doubled down on her attacks, even claiming that hospital employees were lying. When a doctor tweeted about the threats resulting from Libs of TikTok’s targeted harassment, Raichik went after them. Responses to her tweet included numerous attacks against the doctor, including accusing them of being a pedophile and a “groomer.”
Libs of TikTok has a history of targeting hospitals and health care providers, leading to harassment
While Boston Children’s Hospital was being targeted with threats, Raichik continued to probe for new victims, tweeting out a video from Phoenix Children’s Hospital in which a trans patient describes receiving gender-affirming care and another from Yale's Pediatric Gender Program with an added caption that falsely suggests that medical interventions are being performed on three-year-olds.
Boston Children’s Hospital is not the first hospital targeted by Libs of TikTok, nor is it the first to find itself receiving a deluge of harassment as a result. In March, Raichik targeted Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Oregon, leading, the hospital says, to targeted harassment against the institution and its staff. Replies to the post included calling the doctors “perverted demons” and saying it was “time for 1776 v.2.0.” Raichik has targeted multiple other hospitals and health care providers this year.
Raichik's harassment has the potential to cause real-world violence
In addition to the myriad violent threats unleashed after Libs of TikTok has targeted medical professionals, educators, and Pride events, Raichik has been instrumental in another form of harassment targeting LGBTQ people and their allies — use of the term “groomer” to falsely claim LGBTQ people are abusing children.
The Center for Countering Digital Hate and Human Rights Campaign released a report earlier this month detailing the continued widespread use of the smear on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook (despite the term now being identified as hate speech on both platforms). The report discusses how these sorts of campaigns rooted in misinformation and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric lead to “stigma and radicalization, which leads to violence.” The report also specifically identifies that Libs of TikTok’s posts have “been linked to offline threats and intimidation tactics.”
In response, Raichik promised to do more to promote the slander:
Raichik has ignored questions about whether her conduct poses a threat to healthcare workers. But right-wing media’s bigoted campaign against trans youth and the LGBTQ community has already seen escalating violence against LGBTQ people. The threats against Boston Children’s Hospital after it was targeted by Libs of TikTok — and Raichik’s reaction to these threats — demonstrate the sort of harm she apparently seeks to inflict. There are also troubling historical parallels:
Now, Twitter has a responsibility to act before the dangerous threats against the providers and patients at Boston Children’s Hospital, or any of the number of hospitals targeted by Libs of TikTok, manifest into actual violence.