A number of lifestyle influencers used their platforms over the weekend to spread an unfounded conspiracy theory that Wayfair is trafficking children through its website — a baseless claim that has been debunked by various outlets and denied by the company.
The allegation has been floating around social media since June and seems to have originated from the conspiracy-theory group QAnon, according to BuzzFeed News, but it gained traction last Thursday after a post shared on the Conspiracy subreddit went viral.
‘Is it possible Wayfair involved in Human trafficking with their WFX Utility collection? Or are these just extremely overpriced cabinets? (Note the names of the cabinets) this makes me sick to my stomach if it’s true,’ wrote Reddit user PrincessPeach1987.
Say what? Influencers such as Rebecca Pfeiffer (pictured) are spreading an unfounded conspiracy theory that Wayfair is trafficking children through it’s website
Going viral: The baseless claims gained traction last Thursday after someone posted about Wayfair’s high-priced cabinets on a Conspiracy subreddit
The original poster shared a screenshot from Wayfair’s mobile site that shows four cabinets — named Neriah, Yaritza, Samiyah, and Alyvia — that cost between $12,699.99 and $14,499.99.
Conspiracy theorists believe the extremely expensive cabinets and human names they were given are evidence that Wayfair is trafficking children under the guise of the selling utility closets and other high-priced items.
The unsubstantiated claim appears to have come from QAnon, an online group that believes President Donald Trump is fighting a secret war against deep-state pedophiles.
The theory has been traced back to Twitter user @99freemind, a popular QAnon influencer who is known as Amazing Polly online.
She shared a tweet about Wayfair’s ‘storage cabinets’ that have ‘extremely high prices’ and are ‘all listed with girls’ names’ on July 14.
Origins: The theory seems to have originated from QAnon, an online conspiracy-theory group that believes President Trump is fighting a secret war against deep-state pedophiles
Conspiracy: The cabinets were named Neriah, Yaritza, Samiyah, and Alyvia, leading conspiracy theorists to claim they were the names of reportedly missing children
Fake news: NBC News journalist Ben Collins is among those who have condemned the debunked conspiracy on social media
Not real: The conspiracy theory has also been debunked by Reuters, Snopes, Facebook’s independent fact-checkers, and other journalists
The unfounded allegation spread like wildfire across social media and began trending on Twitter as people shared screenshots of expensive cabinets, shower curtains, and pillows on Wayfair’s website that they found to be suspicious.
People stressed that the items in question had female names while others insisted they matched the names of reportedly missing persons.
Some thought Wayfair’s $12,899.99 ‘Samiyah’ cabinet was a reference to Samiyah Mumin, a missing teenager who may have been caught up with the trafficking ring.
However, Samiyah is not missing. The teen slammed the conspiracy theory in a Facebook video for taking attention away from actual missing children.
‘Y’all know how many people is actually missing?’ she asked. ‘Y’all know how many people’s families are out there looking for them?’
Platform: Rebecca Pfeiffer, who has a fashion and lifestyle blog called Luv Bec, is a follower of QAnon and has touted the Wayfair conspiracy theory on her Instagram Stories
Interesting argument: In a recent post, she referenced Noah from the Bible amid claims she is a conspiracy theorist
Wayfair has denied the allegations and given an explanation for the high price points that many found to be confusing.
‘There is, of course, no truth to these claims,’ the company said in a statement to Reuters. ‘The products in question are industrial grade cabinets that are accurately priced.
‘Recognizing that the photos and descriptions provided by the supplier did not adequately explain the high price point, we have temporarily removed the products from [the] site to rename them and to provide a more in-depth description and photos that accurately depict the product to clarify the price point.’
Wayfair also stated that the company names its products using an algorithm that uses ‘first names, geographic locations, and common words for naming purposes.’
The conspiracy theory has been debunked by Reuters, Snopes, Facebook’s independent fact-checkers, and other journalists, but that didn’t stop influencers from promoting it on Instagram over the weekend.
All in: Influencer Maddie Thompson discussed the Wayfair conspiracy theory in an Instagram Live video, saying she ‘immediately believed it’
Using their voices? Maddie’s husband, Justin (pictured), agreed with her and went as far as buying a $17,000 table to further investigate the theory
Spreading the word: Maddie, who has over 44,000 Instagram followers, posted a screenshot of their pending order, writing: ‘Please SHARE THIS to raise awareness’
Rebecca Pfeiffer, who has a fashion and lifestyle blog called Luv Bec, is a follower of QAnon and has nine separate highlights on her Instagram page featuring debunked QAnon conspiracy theories.
The influencer posted about the allegations Wayfair on her Stories and saved them under ‘Q (9).’ She has also called the coronavirus crisis a ‘scamdemic’ and claimed the ‘race war’ is being used to ‘distract and divide us.’
Rebecca, who has over 112,000 Instagram followers later shared her outrage that people weren’t posting about child trafficking as much as they do anti-racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.
‘Where are the squares and the marches for the children?!’ she wrote. ‘You posted a black square in solidarity for the oppressed. It picked up tons of media exposure. Tons of activism for unified efforts for a better way. You fought for systematic change for those you believe deserve a voice. Now … there are little people who need your help!’
Influencer Maddie Thompson and her husband, Justin, discussed the Wayfair conspiracy theory in an Instagram Live video, saying she ‘immediately believed it.’
Won’t stop: Her husband also shared a video of himself calling Wayfair customer service to buy one of the cabinets in question
Not a believer: Maddie later shared a post saying she felt the conspiracy was ‘debunked’ too quickly, making it clear that she doesn’t believe it is false
Justin agreed with her and went as far as buying a $17,000 table to further investigate the theory.
Maddie, who has over 44,000 Instagram followers, posted a screenshot of their pending order, writing: ‘Please SHARE THIS to raise awareness. We will not stand for one more child to be trafficked. Not on our watch.’
Her husband also shared a video of himself calling Wayfair customer service to buy one of the cabinets in question. When it became clear that he was inquiring about the conspiracy theory and not actually looking for help, the representative told him there wasn’t anything else he could do for him.
‘Shame on you for working for that company,’ Justin said before hanging up.
Maddie later shared a post saying she felt the conspiracy was ‘debunked’ too quickly, making it clear that she doesn’t believe it is false.
Investigation: Influencer Indy Blue Severe (pictured) has also shared Instagram Stories posts about the conspiracy, saying she was up until 2 a.m. ‘trying to prove it was fake’
Opinion: ‘I’d rather post about this and be proved wrong later on, than [sic] ignore what I’ve seen,’ Indy wrote. Screenshots of her posts were shared on Twitter
‘”Debunking” this trafficking situation as “false” cannon happen in 24 hours,’ the post said. ‘It can only happen after a proper and thorough FBI Investigation. If the face checkers ever claim to have “debunked” something — look deeper…with both eyes wide open and brace yourself for what you will find.’
Indy Blue Severe, who has 322,000 followers on Instagram, has also shared Instagram Stories posts about the conspiracy, saying she was up until 2 a.m. ‘trying to prove it was fake.’
‘I looked everything up before Wayfair had the chance to delete products/rename/reprice items, so I’ve seen this stuff for myself,’ she wrote.
‘I’d rather post about this and be proved wrong later on, than [sic] ignore what I’ve seen,’ she added. ‘I encourage you to look into this for yourself as well and quick reminder that you’re not doing anything wrong by questioning VERY QUESTIONABLE THINGS. I’m so sick of seeing “conspiracy theorist” function as an insult.’
Kassady Bingham, who has more than 170,000 followers, not only brought up the conspiracy theory, but she claimed her son Lucca was almost a victim of trafficking.
Believer: Kassady Bingham, who has more than 170,000 followers, not only brought up the conspiracy theory, but she claimed her son Lucca was almost a victim of trafficking
On the fence: Others shared they were just happy the story was bringing attention to human trafficking, even though they weren’t sure if the Wayfair conspiracy theory was true
‘I’ve actually had a close call with what I believe were child traffickers at IKEA a few years ago,’ she wrote on her Instagram Stories. ‘I explained the story here. I know the shady people following us with bad intentions with Lucca and my niece. NOTHING is stronger or more accurate than a mother’s intuition.’
The conspiracy theory was also posted by people who didn’t necessarily believe it but wanted to discuss it with their followers.
Emily Herren, who is known as Champagne and Chanel on social media, polled her one million Instagram followers and 65 per cent of them said they believed the Wayfair conspiracy theory.
Others shared they were just happy the story was bringing attention to human trafficking, even though they weren’t sure if the Wayfair conspiracy theory was true.
‘I don’t know what is going on with Wayfair. We need more answers. But what I do know is that child sex trafficking is a crime that hides IN PLAIN SIGHT,’ Anna Lyn Cook wrote on her Instagram Stories.
Reading the room: Emily Herren polled her one million Instagram followers and 65 per cent of them said they believed the Wayfair conspiracy theory
‘It’s shedding light on the fact children DO go missing and are sold. People are asking their own questions and doing their research,’ an influencer known as Just Brandi wrote. ‘People need to learn more and to help do what they can to be activists against it. Be a VOICE FOR THEM.’
NBC News journalist Ben Collins is among those who have condemned the debunked conspiracy on social media.
‘Pizzagate/QAnon people have Wayfair trending today. They falsely claim price glitches on storage boxes prove that the company is trafficking children,’ he tweeted on July 10.
‘This took off because of a post on Reddit’s r/conspiracy subreddit yesterday, which is a clearinghouse for anonymous paranoia.’
QAnon started on the fringe website 4chan, where a poster calling themselves Q left messages claiming to be a senior federal official and purporting to reveal a ‘deep state’ cabal intent on bringing down Donald Trump.
Q grew out of the discredited Pizzagate conspiracy that top Democrats were involved in pedophilia and cannibalism from the basement of a Washington D.C. restaurant, but it quickly picked up steam with ‘Q’ leaving ‘clues’ and claims that Trump was going to bring down the deep state.
Whenever the conspiracies turn out to not be true, followers rationalize that the inaccuracies are part of Q’s larger plan.