False claims are circulating online about a “Hillary Clinton snuff film” depicting the torture of a young girl as part of a satanic ritual, and the outlandish story is going viral thanks in part to distribution on Facebook and YouTube.
The video is described as showing Clinton and her longtime aide Huma Abedin committing horrific acts of torture on a young girl, then drinking her blood. Despite the lack of any evidence for the existence of such a video, it has become tangled up in the bonkers conspiracy theory known as QAnon.
While some versions of this false claim have circulated online for months, it got a big boost in mid-April when a website with a history of pushing falsehoods published a post claiming such a video was circulating on the dark web, the part of the internet only accessible with special software.
“Many people are unable to watch the video due to the horrific nature of the content, according to sources familiar with the tape,” reads the post on Your News Wire, which publishes a mix of incendiary partisan content and outright fabrications.
Your News Wire's story has earned almost 40,000 Facebook comments, reactions, and shares. There are, however, no sources in the story beyond a handful of social media posts and quotes attributed only to "sources."
This is also not the first time a post from Your News Wire containing falsehoods has spread rapidly on Facebook this year, despite the social network's attempts to tamp down on misinformation. In January, Your News Wire had a viral hit on Facebook with a post falsely linking the flu vaccine to deaths.
Sean Adl-Tabatabai, the site's editor, declined to comment when reached by BuzzFeed News.
YouTube videos discussing the "snuff film" have spread the false claims even further.
"I hope that everyone sees this. I hope that people get this,” says the narrator of one such video that has been viewed more than 160,000 times. “I hope that the victims are smiling down on me saying thank you for telling our story, because this has been hidden for so long. These people shouldn't get away with doing this.”
Despite all this interest, however, clips or stills from the supposed video have failed to materialize. As Lead Stories has reported, one image that some claimed showed Abedin in a mask actually came from the website of a Washington, DC, supper club and depicts the restaurant's owner.
This lack of any tangible proof has not stopped believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory from latching on to the fictitious snuff film.
QAnon is a sprawling conspiracy theory based on cryptic anonymous posts left on the 4chan and 8chan discussion forums, signed simply "Q." According to adherents, Q is a person within the US government with high-security clearance who is leaving clues on the internet about nefarious misdeeds of the rich and powerful and how President Donald Trump is combating them. Adherents frequently make claims about child abuse by powerful figures, much like the Pizzagate conspiracy.
Posts about the imagined Clinton-Abedin video have also shown up on /r/greatawakening, a Reddit community that serves as one of the main online spaces where QAnon believers puzzle through the byzantine conspiracy theory.
But not everyone is convinced. Even some conspiracy theorists say the Clinton video might be fake, or possibly a hoax created by the government to entrap people who are getting too close to the truth.
Mellisa Zaccaria, a prominent YouTube conspiracy theorist, said in one video that she scoured the dark web for clues about the alleged video but came up empty.
"This is getting kind of ridiculous. I don't want to feed into it unless I actually have some evidence that this stuff is really happening," Zaccaria said.
"It’s very important to keep our truth movement legit, based on fact, and based on credible evidence.”