A baseless conspiracy theory about Wayfair spread like wildfire among influencers on Instagram over the weekend, with prominent voices on the platform joining in the speculation.
Misinformation and right-wing conspiracy theories — which used to primarily reside in darker corners of the internet like 4chan and Reddit — have been spreading through Instagram since earlier this year. In April, BuzzFeed News reported that several lifestyle and parenting influencers had begun sprinkling in QAnon theories with their normal content; since then, the problem has only become bigger.
The Wayfair conspiracy theory — which baselessly claims that the company is trafficking children through its website — began to gain steam on Friday. It has spread alarmingly quickly around Instagram.
Since June, the conspiracy theory about Wayfair had been floating around Twitter accounts that share dubious information — but the version that went viral appears to have originated on the r/conspiracy subreddit. The apparent original poster speculated that Wayfair had been trafficking children through storage cabinets after noticing several of the products were "extremely overpriced." The cabinets in question cost around $13,000; conspiracy theorists connected some of the products' names to children who had reported missing online.
The price tags and the fact that Wayfair (like many companies) assigns human names to its items aside, there is no concrete evidence that the company is involved in child sex trafficking. Wayfair has denied these allegations, and one of the so-called missing children being flagged by conspiracy theorists also responded angrily on social media.
The Wayfair conspiracy plays into the bigger QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims that the world is controlled by a secret cabal of pedophiles that President Donald Trump is actively fighting against. Over the years, QAnon believers have claimed this ring has been involved in the Clinton presidential campaign (remember Pizzagate?), the Mueller investigation, and, more recently, the Navy ships and hospital built in New York City to help fight the coronavirus.
If you want more information, BuzzFeed News' Craig Silverman broke the whole bogus QAnon theory down in a video last year.
QAnon supporters and conspiracy theorists have taken the Wayfair claims and connected them. Several other photos of "proof" have emerged, and countless people online have come up with other products, such as expensive pillows, they deem suspicious.
The company has denied any involvement in human trafficking, saying "there is, of course, no truth to these claims."
"The products in question are industrial grade cabinets that are accurately priced," a Wayfair spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. "Recognizing that the photos and descriptions provided by the supplier did not adequately explain the high price point, we temporarily removed the products from site to rename them and provide a more in-depth description and photos that accurately depict the product to clarify the price point."
The conspiracy theory has also been debunked in mainstream media outlets like Snopes and Reuters. Ben Collins, a reporter on disinformation for NBC News, also addressed the conspiracy point by point in a Twitter thread.