March 7, 2021
QAnon and other sex traffic conspiracy theories on social media have made it more difficult to do legitimate work for those working to support victims, according to an expert on Wednesday night.
Shea M. Rhodes, the director and co-founder of the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial and Sexual Exploitation, was a special guest speaker for the Transitions of PA’s Human Trafficking Awareness Night via Zoom on Wednesday. The live discussion on dangerous narratives coincided with January being Human Trafficking Awareness Night.
“It has become incredibly dangerous,” said Rhodes. “Human trafficking has taken center stage over the past few months. We started noticing an uptick in July on social media. It’s quite upsetting and completely wrong. Misinformation is rampant on social media, the internet and even news networks. It’s important we debunk this information so people can understand the reality and the harm that is caused by false narratives.”
QAnon, whose followers recently made headlines by taking part in a siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6, is a far-right conspiracy theory group that falsely believes the government is secretly controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile cannibals. Rhodes said QAnon has politicized a historically bi-partisan issue.
The #SaveTheChildren movement makes it increasingly difficult to discern who truly cares about child exploitation and who is interested in spreading falsities. It diverts time and resources from legitimate anti-trafficking groups, and QAnon encourages followers to pursue acts of vigilante justice, said Rhodes.
“We are spending a huge amount of time answering people putting things on our social media,” she said. “Our time, our resources are completely hijacked.”
Read the full article by Justin Strawser on The Daily Item.
October 13, 2020
It was announced on Tuesday that Facebook will ban QAnon and related conspiracy theories associated with many disinformation campaigns. The company has been struggling to control the spread of misinformation ahead of the 2020 election, and QAnon presence on the platform has upended much of that work in recent months.
QAnon is a popular conspiracy theory that began in the far corners of the internet back in 2017 after the Pizzagate conspiracy theory sparked ahead of the 2016 election. The conspiracy theory, which once existed only within the fringes of society, has increasingly centered itself into mainstream politics ahead of the 2020 election. The theory suggests that Hollywood and the Democratic Party is run by a group of elite pedophiles that torture children and harvest their adrenaline to use it in a drug that extends their youth and beauty. Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Tom Hanks have fallen target to QAnon supporters, as well as political figures like Bill Clinton.
Facebook began cracking down on QAnon groups and related content earlier this summer, when the conspiracy theory began making its way into the mainstream by re-appropriating calls to end human trafficking on social media. On Instagram, hashtags related to human trafficking saw an uptick of QAnon related content, acting as a radicalization tool for curious activists by appealing to their moral code and gut reaction.
Memes that spread falsified statistics about human trafficking with no reference information spread like wildfire, leading millions of people to think that the problem is much worse than it might actually be. Attempts at fact checking this information are futile, especially since the nature of QAnon pushes a distrust in news media companies by alleging that they, too, are part of this cabal of pedophiles.
Facebook said on Tuesday that it would be expanding on its policies made earlier in 2020 to find and remove content associated with QAnon. “Starting today, we will remove any Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts representing QAnon, even if they contain no violent content,” said the company in a press release. “This is an update from the initial policy in August that removed Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts associated with QAnon when they discussed potential violence while imposing a series of restrictions to limit the reach of other Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts associated with the movement,” the press release went on to say.
To read the full story by Julia Sachs on Grit Daily: Click Here
September 17, 2020
Rallying in the center of Santee’s busy shopping district on a recent Saturday, men, women and children waved signs condemning the sexual exploitation of children.
“Standing 4 children” read one, and “End human trafficking” another. They received honks of support as drivers passed by.
There were other signs, though, that raised fears among some child-victim advocates that their long-standing efforts to fight trafficking are being hijacked and radically politicized by backers of conspiracy theories.
The Santee rally included hand-lettered support for “WWG1 WGA,” an abbreviated version of the slogan “Where we go one, we go all,” adopted by those who ascribe to the belief system known as QAnon.
One man carried the message: “FBI FBI FBI. INVESTIGATE PIZZA-GATE,” a nod to the debunked conspiracy theory that powerful Democrats were running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a Washington pizza parlor.
And another: “#PIZZAGATE IS REAL. SAVE OUR CHILDREN.”
Similar protests have played out on street corners across the country and other parts of the globe in recent weeks, including another one in downtown San Diego organized by a different group.
The rallies were in response to calls to action that have spread virally through social media hashtags such as #SaveTheChildren, #SaveOurChildren and #Wheresthechildren.
While the front-facing message of the hashtag campaign confronts the all-too-real horrors of children being sold for sex and pedophilia, many of the ideas it promotes are rooted in conspiracy theories at the center of QAnon.
To read the full story by Kristina Davis and Joshua Emerson Smith on The San Diego Union-Tribune: Click Here