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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.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."