REAL NEWS: Wayfair isn’t involved in a child-trafficking ring, despite an outrageous allegation that has gone viral worldwide and shows no signs of stopping.
It began with a tweet about large, industrialized storage cabinets sold by the company with girls’ names.
Somehow, that got twisted into a claim that – believe it or not -- a trafficking ring smuggled children in the furniture.
No one paid much attention to the far-fetched mid-June tweet.
It was rekindled earlier this month, however, in a Reddit discussion group called "r/conspiracy” when someone pointed out that the names of the Wayfair furniture matched the names of missing girls.
The claims gained traction in the QAnon community, some of whose members also believe that President Trump is involved in a “deep state” plot against Washington elites.
Pretty soon, the rumors were flooding Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. The hashtags #Wayfairconspiracy and #WayfairGate at one point garnered a combined 4.5 million views.
Calls overwhelmed the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which already was dealing with a surge from people seeking emergency shelter assistance because of COVID.
No fewer than three conservative congressional candidates -- in California, Florida and Georgia – also gave credence to the claims.
Completely ignored was the fact that some of the children weren’t missing anymore, or even at all.
A woman whose name was linked to the disappearances even though she’d never gone missing did a Facebook live to try and dispel the rumors.
Another woman pleaded on Facebook and YouTube for the removal of a video of her young daughter that was used to support the rumors.
Neither helped much.
Wayfair said through a spokesperson that it uses an algorithm to name its products -- similar to what many other retailers do – and that “there is, of course, no truth to these claims.”
Wayfair, being proactive, even “temporarily removed the products from our site to rename them and to provide a more in-depth description and photos that accurately depict the product to clarify the price point," the spokesperson told BBC News.
That wasn’t enough for the conspiracy theorists.
Some said the price of the cabinets – roughly $13,000 each – suggested something shady.
Others said they’d entered SKU numbers of Wayfair products into a major Russian search engine known as Yandex and got images of young women in the results.
As it turned out, a search under any random string of numbers could return the same results.
Yandex nonetheless wiped the glitch from its system.
Some have compared the situation to the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory of four years ago that Hillary Clinton’s inner circle was running a Satanic child sex ring out of a Washington, DC pizzeria.
One man took the baseless rumor so seriously that he entered the pizza with an AR-15 rifle and began shooting. Such are the possible consequences of fake news.
A YouTube influencer this time around posted a video accusing Wayfair of child trafficking.
It had already been viewed 155,000 times when he admitted in a subsequent post: “I didn’t really have all the facts for that video, I just kind of made it on impulse because I was so scared. I personally have no knowledge, no evidence, nothing.”
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