Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Platforms including Reddit, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have been playing host to a baseless conspiracy theory that picked up steam over the weekend claiming that furniture e-tailer Wayfair is a front for human trafficking.

Why it matters: The claims caught fire among QAnon, the online group that believes President Trump is fighting a secret war against deep-state pedophiles. Since beginning in 2017, QAnon has moved slowly toward mainstream notice, and a number of supporters of the fringe belief system are now running for Congress.

What's happening: Internet users are claiming that Wayfair listings for pricey cabinets and other furniture are in fact a way for predators to order children sent to their door.

  • Conspiracy theorists have seized on coincidental overlaps of product names with the names of children reported missing around the country.
  • The claims have spread widely online after appearing on the r/conspiracy subreddit late last week.
  • Twitter hasn't taken down many of the tweets spreading the claims because they don't appear likely to cause real-world harm, a spokesperson said. Facebook has added fact-checking labels to posts involving the conspiracy theory and is downranking them so they appear less prominently and frequently in people's feeds, according to spokesperson Liz Bourgeois.

Reality check: There's no question that the internet has been exploited by human traffickers, but there's no evidence that an e-commerce platform on the open web is actually being used to buy and sell children.

  • Hundreds of thousands of children are reported missing in the U.S. each year, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
  • It's no surprise that some of those children would share names with items of furniture named after people.
  • Several of the children that conspiracy theorists identified as having names matching Wayfair listings are in fact no longer missing.

What they're saying:

"There is, of course, no truth to these claims. 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 spokesperson, to Newsweek

Our thought bubble: Conspiracy theories are fringe until they're not. Remember: President Trump entered politics by promoting a conspiracy theory that his predecessor wasn't born in this country.

Go deeper

Updated Aug 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

GOP congressman condemns QAnon after conspiracy theorist wins Georgia runoff

Kinzinger. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) tweeted Wednesday that QAnon has "no place in Congress," a day after Marjorie Taylor Greene, a vocal QAnon conspiracy theorist, won the Republican nomination in a congressional runoff election in Georgia.

Why it matters: Few, if any, Republican members of Congress have publicly condemned the far-right conspiracy, which baselessly claims that a secret cabal of sex traffickers within the "deep state" is waging a war against President Trump.

Marjorie Taylor Greene wins Georgia's 14th district runoff

Photo: Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

Gun-rights activist Marjorie Taylor Greene defeated physician John Cowan in a runoff election for the Republican nomination in Georgia's deep-red 14th Congressional District on Tuesday, AP reports.

Why it matters: Greene, a vocal QAnon conspiracy theorist who has been condemned by GOP leaders for making multiple offensive remarks about Black people, Jews and Muslims in Facebook videos, is likely to win a seat in the House come November.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 20,755,406 — Total deaths: 752,225— Total recoveries: 12,917,934Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 5,246,760 — Total deaths: 167,052 — Total recoveries: 1,774,648 — Total tests: 64,831,306Map.
  3. Politics: House Democrats to investigate scientist leading "Operation Warp Speed" vaccine projectMcConnell announces Senate will not hold votes until Sept. 8 unless stimulus deal is reached.
  4. 2020: Biden calls for 3-month national mask mandateBiden and Harris to receive coronavirus briefings 4 times a week.
  5. States: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to drop lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate.
  6. Business: Why the CARES Act makes 2020 the best year for companies to lose money.
  7. Public health: Fauci's guidance on pre-vaccine coronavirus treatments Cases are falling, but don't get too comfortable.