Second graders are learning about furries in school?
That’s what the prominent right-wing Twitter account Libs of TikTok (@LibsofTikTok) said in a tweet on Monday. However, it turns out that Libs of TikTok fell for a troll. The accusations she tweeted were faked.
“A second grade teacher in @AustinISD allegedly gave students worksheets on furries,” the account, which is run by conservative activist Chaya Raichik, claimed. “These included a furry wordsearch and an activity on designing your own furry persona.”
In the tweet, Libs of TikTok embedded two photos: a screenshot from a Facebook post claiming to be the concerned parent of one of those second graders and a picture of the alleged furry-related coursework. The worksheets included a “Design Your Fursona” page that supposedly asked students to pick out their furry’s gender and a “Furries Word Search.” An additional sheet pictured allegedly informed parents that their students would be learning about “youth subcultures, from goths to furries” for “Culture Month.”
The Libs of TikTok account also included the Twitter handle for Austin Independent School District, @AustinISD, a district that runs 125 schools based in Austin, Texas, in the tweet. As a result, @AustinISD received thousands of inflammatory tweets, alleging that they were teaching “sexual fetishes” to children, “grooming” young kids, and accusing the school district of child abuse.
Mashable reached out to the school district via phone and email correspondence. Austin ISD Media Relations Manager Cristina Nguyen confirmed that these worksheets were not taught in any second grade class and were not part of the district’s curriculum.
“Our curriculum team looked at our resources, and it is not in our curriculum nor is it part of counseling or social emotional learning,” Nguyen told Mashable. She also said that the Libs of TikTok tweet interrupted the daily functions of the district as they were “inundated” with messages regarding the tweet.
It’s not surprising that Austin ISD was unable to find these worksheets in their curriculum. It’s because they were created by an online troll on the website rDrama specifically for the purpose of tricking reactionary internet users like Raichick.
In a since-deleted post that was archived via Google on April 13 – 12 days before Libs of TikTok fell for the fakes — members discussed the “Furry Culture Month school worksheet” troll, created by one of rDrama’s moderators. The post compiles a number of Reddit posts created by the mod in an attempt to trick users.
“Most of the top comments aren’t falling for it, but if you sort by controversial [comments] you get a few special redditors,” explained the rDrama user who created the thread.
Nearly two weeks later, Raichik would also fall for the troll.
rDrama.net is an offshoot of the shuttered r/drama subreddit on Reddit. The website and its users are known for creating internet hoaxes, such as last year’s “Abortion Bounty Hunters” subreddit group, which has also since been shut down by Reddit.
r/drama and the subsequent rDrama.net exists specifically to, well, create drama. Members of the forum claim to not be all that ideological, simply looking to troll those who easily fall for “ragebait.”
One obvious tell that the furry worksheets were the work of trolls: Their creator gave a shoutout to “rDrama” right in the “Furries Word Search.”
Furries are an internet subculture whose members often create an anthropomorphized animal version of themselves and identify and act as that animal character. Furries are not explicitly sexual in nature; however, furry fetish tropes have pigeonholed the community into being identified as such by the mainstream.
With nearly one million followers, Libs of TikTok is an influential right-wing Twitter account that often targets LGBTQ users and schoolteachers who post videos on TikTok. Its owner, Chaya Raichik, has previously boasted about the account’s influence on Republican administrations in Florida and Texas. Both states have pushed anti-LGBT legislation in recent months. Supporters of the @LibsOfTikTok account claim it only re-posts videos of the individual it’s targeting.
However, since-deleted tweets from the Libs of TikTok account show that it had previously doxxed individuals, sharing a physical address, place of work, phone number, and email connected to the targeted person. Libs of TikTok also encouraged her followers to call the listed phone number. Those deleted tweets include a post accusing the LGBTQ suicide prevention hotline, The Trevor Project, of being a “grooming organization” for providing these services.
This isn’t the first time Raichik has posted fake stories. The account previously spread a conspiracy theory about schools leaving out litter boxes for students that were choosing to “identify as cats.”
The Libs of TikTok account was previously run anonymously. That is, until last week, when Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz uncovered that Chaya Raichik was behind the account. In the fallout of the report, it was also discovered that Raichik is now being funded by the right-wing media outlet, The Babylon Bee, to run the Libs of TikTok account.
Conservative supporters of Raichik criticized the basic journalistic tactics deployed by Lorenz, such as confirming she had the correct information by knocking on doors connected to Raichik. If Raichik and the Libs of TikTok account engaged in similar due diligence, perhaps it would have avoided falling for a troll and publishing a post that resulted in harassing messages sent to the faculty of an entire school district.