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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

Poll: One-third of Americans are open to QAnon conspiracy theories

A car with references to the QAnon conspiracy theory, which the FBI identified as a domestic terror threat, before a Trump rally. Photo: Caitlin O'Hara/Getty Images

More than one-third of Americans think it's possible that elites in Hollywood, government and the media "are secretly engaging in large scale child trafficking and abuse," according to new polling for a U.K.-based anti-racism advocacy group reviewed by Axios.

The big picture: New findings by the group HOPE not Hate show 1 in 10 Americans say they are at least "soft" supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement and suggest that distrust in U.S. political systems could fuel further unrest in a fraught election year.

Scoop: Beto plans Texas comeback in governor's race

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks during the Georgetown to Austin March for Democracy rally on July 31, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to run for governor of Texas in 2022, with an announcement expected later this year, Texas political operatives tell Axios.

Why it matters: O'Rourke's entry would give Democrats a high-profile candidate with a national fundraising network to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — and give O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman from El Paso and 2020 presidential candidate and voting rights activist, a path to a political comeback.

Texas doctor says he performed an abortion in violation of state law

Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue and back to the Texas state capitol in Austin, Tx in July 2021. Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

A Texas doctor disclosed in an op-ed in the Washington Post Saturday that he has performed an abortion in violation of the state's restrictive new abortion law, which bans effectively bans the procedure after six weeks.

Why it matters: Alan Braid's op-ed is a direct disclosure that will very likely result in legal action, thereby setting it up as a potential test case for how the abortion ban will be litigated, notes the New York Times.