The Daily Dot’s breaking political reporting exposes TikTok’s influence on policy

As the far-right Twitter account Libs of TikTok grew in popularity, the Daily Dot was among the first outlets to report on the full extent of the account’s influence on anti-LGBT policy, with consistent breaking news about the woman behind the account and the movement she inspired.

Now with 1.8 million Twitter followers, the conservative Twitter account continues amassing its following by posting content from LGBTQ and liberal-adjacent causes and communities that garner viral outrage from its predominantly Republican audience. 

Claire Goforth first reported on the account, breaking news that the account owner had been present at the Jan 6th Capitol Protest. The next day, The Washington Post followed The Daily Dot’s reporting, revealing Chaya Raichik as the identity behind the account to have attended the protest.

‘We are dedicated to covering this beat because it’s a movement inspired by hate and we don’t believe we should let that fester.’

With the account rising in popularity and influence, Libs of TikTok has been a consistent subject of The Daily Dot’s reporting since. “Throughout the spring and summer, I continued reporting on the various ways Libs of TikTok was targeting specific people, hospitals and influencing policy as well,” Goforth said. 

Subsequent to that investigation, and after the administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) had publicly interacted with the Libs of TikTok account, The Daily Dot submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to specifically understand the extent of the account’s relationship with the DeSantis administration.

Months later, The Daily Dot had not received the documents from the DeSantis administration. In October, immediately following a threat of legal action, The Daily Dot eventually received nearly 900 pages of documents from the public records request. 

These documents uncovered a trove of instances where the DeSantis administration distributed disinformation regarding its anti-LGBT policies. Among the findings, Goforth reported that “the prominent homophobic and transphobic Twitter account Libs of TikTok factored in as Florida proposed, then passed, the controversial Don’t Say Gay law.” 

“This is a very effective way that we as journalists can combat false narratives by showing what’s behind the scenes,” Goforth said while speaking on the value of the public records request used in this report. “Hate and division are being used for clicks and eyeballs without a concern of who is hurt by that self-interest.”

The Daily Dot’s Senior Politics and Technology Editor, David Covucci, said that this is a pillar of The Daily Dot’s reporting, similarly seen in the news site’s coverage of the Idaho book bans and Twitter’s LGBTQ policies

Notably, The Daily Dot’s FOIA intern, Rebecca Caraway, continued reporting on this coordinated moral panic through her stories about book bans using records obtained by The Daily Dot.

For the past five years, the Daily Dot has offered a FOIA internship to emerging journalists to help them learn how public records can be a valuable tool in reporting. Interns focus on 1-2 stories a semester and learn how to write and appeal requests, and how to review documents to unearth government secrets. 

Covucci says that despite scrutiny faced by The Daily Dot over their coverage on this beat, they have yet to find one factual error in the outlet’s reporting. “I’m very proud of the reporting we’ve done and the people we’ve had on staff”, Covucci said. “We’ve had our reporters doxxed and it hasn’t deterred us.”

“We are dedicated to covering this beat because it’s a movement inspired by hate and we don’t believe we should let that fester.”

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