On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that QAnon believers are hijacking a national movement to fight child trafficking — and causing chaos among people trying to protect victims.
"Like any movement, QAnon needs to win over new members. And its most recent growth strategy involves piggybacking on the anti-human-trafficking movement," reported Kevin Roose. "The idea, in a nutshell, is to create a groundswell of concern by flooding social media with posts about human trafficking, joining parenting Facebook groups and glomming on to hashtag campaigns like #SaveTheChildren, which began as a legitimate fund-raising campaign for the Save the Children charity. Then followers can shift the conversation to baseless theories about who they believe is doing the trafficking: a cabal of nefarious elites that includes Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey and Pope Francis."
"Sometimes, QAnon followers spin factual information in a way that serves their aims. Last week, an Associated Press article about a $35 million Trump administration grant to organizations that house trafficking survivors became one of the most-shared stories on Facebook, after QAnon groups picked it up and cited it as evidence that President Trump’s secret crusade against elite pedophiles was underway," said the report. But they are also picking up baseless conspiracy theories, like the recent claim that Wayfair was somehow trafficking children in furniture.
According to Roose, a number of longtime anti-trafficking activists are "horrified" by QAnon co-opting their efforts, because they "had worked for years to expose facts about child trafficking, only to see them distorted and misused by partisan opportunists. And they worried that in addition to clogging hotlines, QAnon believers could undermine the movement’s bipartisan credibility."
The QAnon conspiracy theory posits that President Donald Trump has been working behind the scenes to destroy a secret Satanic pedophile ring controlled by Democrats. The movement has believers all around the country, a network of merchandise and Facebook communities, and even congressional candidates. The FBI has warned it is a potential source of domestic terrorism, and QAnon believers have already been linked to acts of political violence, including the killing of an alleged mob boss.