Saga, a college sophomore, activist, and content creator who discusses anti-Black racism, has been included in harassment videos featured on Libs of TikTok’s Twitter account and conservative commentator Michael Knowles’ YouTube channel. Saga says they’ve grown use to the backlash by conservative media.
Conservative media has been an epicenter for misinformation regarding LGBTQ and POC topics, sometimes inciting attacks on people who are apart or adjacent to these marginalized communities from boycotts to doxxing.
“I was disappointed, but it wasn’t unexpected,” Saga says, regarding how they’re videos are often picked up by right-wing media and the harassment that follows, in an interview with the Daily Dot.
Right-wing and anti-LGBTQ Twitter account Libs of TikTok has amassed a Twitter following of 2.2 million over the span of three years.
The Daily Beast reports that in 2020, the Daily Wire, a conservative media company, was Facebook’s seventh most-popular publisher. The company hosts a range of right-wing commentators, such as Ben Shapiro, Knowles, and Candace Owens, who have all built platforms questioning the reality of systemic racism while pushing anti-LGBTQ and anti-feminist discourse.
In doing so, they’ve made marginalized people, like Saga, individual targets of far-right communities who subject minorities to racist, queerphobic, and misogynistic remarks.
Fighting to stay online
In a YouTube video, Knowles and his comment section misgenders Saga and refers to Saga as a victim of leftist propaganda.
Saga had to make their TikTok account private after receiving a continuous influx of online harassment and death threats after being featured on multiple right-wing social media platforms.
They say they have no intention of censoring their online messaging but do feel the pressure to meticulously plan what they have to say in order to mitigate backlash and may consider alternatives to creating videos.
“I feel like I’m trying to move more underground. I still have been pursuing these means of education and these means of taking action within my community,” Saga says. “But I feel like it hasn’t been something I’ve been putting on TikTok as much.”
According to a 2022 Anti-Defamation League survey, hate-based online harassment remains high, as 65% of marginalized U.S adults report experiencing some form of online harassment.
Saga explained that they fear their TikTok account will be deleted if they were to make their account public, as it’s happened to two previous accounts of theirs, due to right-wing harassment. One of their former accounts had 300,000 followers.
A research article published on the Association for Computing Machinery Digital Library notes that transgender and Black people disproportionately have their social media content removed when discussing queer issues or racial justice, despite abiding by guidelines.
“Conservative participants’ removals often involved harmful content removed according to site guidelines to create safe spaces with accurate information,” the study reports, “while transgender and Black participants’ removals often involved content related to expressing their marginalized identities that was removed despite following site policies or fell into content moderation gray areas.”
Saga is one of many who’ve been harassed either directly or as a result of being featured on right-wing media platforms, a growing direct-to-creator movement that is an attempt to silence people trying to raise awareness of their identities and struggles.
The transphobic agenda
Conservative media has also called for the termination of openly queer teachers, labeling said teachers as “groomers” and inciting vitriolic hate towards the educators featured on their platforms.
In a previous interview with the Daily Dot, Flint, a transgender teacher in California, said Fox News’ coverage of the LGBTQ books in their classroom led to death threats to them and their colleagues, plus a bomb threat at the school where they work.
NBC News Digital’s tech and culture reporter Kat Tenbarge tells the Daily Dot that topics built off of the rage of disputed and false claims about queer youth, critical race theory, and other topics categorized under the “culture war” umbrella attract many due to the relevancy and monetary benefits the discourse provides.
“When something is gaining viral popularity everybody wants a bite because this is how you make money, you join whatever the trending topic is and you add your input and you build onto whatever it is,” Tenbarge says.
Tenbarge explains this leads to real legislation that causes further harm to marginalized people.
“When [conservative media] finds a very successful topic to pick up steam in their online communities, you then see it physically manifesting in legislation,” Tenbarge says.
Raichik’s endorsement of government officials is a signifier of just how pervasive transphobia has become.
Tenbarge says that right-wing social media platforms bring a lot of negative awareness to trans people in a way that wasn’t prominent years ago.
She explains that throughout the 2010s, there was an effort that began to show more trans representation and how trans people weren’t the focus of mainstream political discourse as we see today. She says the mainstream transphobia now is a direct backlash to trans progress.
TikToker Dylan Mulvaney has been at the center of recent transphobic right-wing harassment, hitting a climax after her Bud Light campaign led many queerphobic conservatives to protest the brand.
In a recent TikTok, Mulvaney shared that she’s been fearful and hiding for two months because of the transphobia she’s been subjected to.
“Being transgender, being queer, is an immutable characteristic that you can’t change and they know that and so rather than trying to change it, they’re simply trying to push people out of the conversation entirely,” Tenbarge said. “It’s sort of like the violent erasure of trans people at every level of society is what we’re seeing happen.”
Tenbarge added that accounts like Libs of TikTok encourage people to “take matters into their own hands,” by associating queer people, specifically trans people, with pedophilia.
“Pedophilia is considered the worst crime among most people, it’s considered the ultimate sin, and when you’re affiliating this entire group of marginalized individuals with the worst thing known to mankind,” Tenbarge says. “[People] find them and they express their ideology which is that these individuals are doing something damaging, so they’re going to try to attack them and stalk them in some way.”
Last fall, staff at the Boston Children’s Hospital received a bomb threat, from a right-wing donor and supporter of former President Donald Trump after fabricated remarks by Libs of TikTok about the gender-affirming care the hospital provides to minors.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference in March, Knowles, in what some described as a call for genocide, stated, “For the good of society… transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.”
Furthermore, Media Matters reports that Meta has profited from over 200 anti-LGBTQ ads and the Associated Press reports that racial and queerphobic slurs have increased since Elon Musk took over Twitter.
The ongoing discrimination and harassment of marginalized groups is contributing to an already established mental health crisis.
The Trevor Project reports, “86% of transgender and nonbinary youth say recent debates around anti-trans bills have negatively impacted their mental health.”
The premeditated harassment of marginalized communities is scary for the individuals targeted, leading many to feel unsafe, which can lead to them and their communities silencing.
Flint, in their previous interview with the Daily Dot, said that fewer students attend Queer Student Alliance, and their school was blocked from hosting events for the club due to conservative, queerphobic discrimination.
Meanwhile, Saga is continuing to make TikTok content on a private account but is considering alternatives to video formats in order to mitigate online harassment from right-wing media.
Saga says although they’d hope that the social media companies would combat the discrimination that’s rampant on their platforms, they don’t believe CEOs have a vested interest to dismantle bigotry.
“It’s just like, how many times am I gonna build and put into having a viral account just for it to get deleted?” Saga says.