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Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

In the latest wave of unfounded conspiracy theories, Etsy, the popular online marketplace for handmade goods, has become the target of speculations suggesting involvement in child trafficking. Social media users, influenced by QAnon supporters, claim to have identified “suspicious listings,” including high-priced downloadable images of pizza, which they allege are signals for illicit activities.

These rumors echo the debunked “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory from 2016, falsely connecting a Washington pizza restaurant to a non-existent child sex trafficking ring involving high-profile Democrats. The recent allegations against Etsy gain traction during the holiday shopping season, with QAnon supporters urging people not to be “gaslighted” and sharing screenshots on various platforms.

Etsy has swiftly refuted these trafficking claims, asserting that no evidence of child safety risks was found. The company, however, removed the contested pizza-related posts due to their questionable legitimacy. Similar false theories have previously targeted online retailers, such as Wayfair in 2020, with claims of sex trafficking operations disguised as furniture sales.

Despite the lack of evidence linking Etsy or Wayfair to human trafficking, these baseless allegations continue to circulate among QAnon adherents. Influential figures like Elon Musk have also contributed to the resurgence of these conspiracy theories. Musk’s endorsement of “Pizzagate” on social media led to a significant increase in related activity, according to research by Bond Benton and Daniela Peterka-Benton.

Experts emphasize the danger of such unfounded narratives, noting their potential to distort the public perception of human trafficking and influence funding and policies in ways that may harm actual victims. Benton warns that the rapid spread of conspiracies on social media intensifies the risk of rationalizing violence against those implicated.

The intersection of influential figures like Musk and online conspiracy theories underscores the impact of high-profile endorsements on the dissemination of baseless claims. As these narratives gain momentum, experts stress the importance of critical thinking and caution against blindly accepting information that can perpetuate harmful and false beliefs.

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