(Paris) The rise of child trafficking publications on social networks, fueled by the conspiratorial movement QAnon, is fueling a climate of panic and violence with dangerous consequences, according to several experts at the AFP.
Posted Oct 9, 2020 at 10:03 am
Young girls reportedly found locked in containers or stuck on the street with roses equipped with a tracking chip, US furniture distributor Wayfair has been accused of using storage cabinets to hide children and engage in human trafficking …
From the United States to South Africa, the AFP verification blog has denied numerous allegations of human trafficking in children and people in recent months. in the English-speaking world.
A very viral Facebook post, shared a million times, claimed last month that 39 missing children were found in a trailer in the US state of Georgia. In fact, these children were found in 15 different counties in August, and most of them were not trafficked.
These various rumors fueled the theses of QAnon, a far-right movement that defends the idea that US President Donald Trump is waging a secret war against a global liberal sect made up of Satanist pedophiles.
"It's a conspiracy theory that supports Donald Trump, but more broadly, it evokes a global conspiracy, an anti-establishment message that can be identified with virtually anywhere in the world," Julien told AFP. Bellaiche, researcher specializing in the study of extremism and technology.
Born on social networks in 2017, the movement has grown in popularity due to mass sharing of posts on Facebook and Instagram.
Faced with content that it considers violent or hateful, the giant Facebook announced on October 7 the withdrawal of all accounts, pages and groups associated with the movement from its main platform and Instagram.
Popularized by influencers
QAnon has increased his influence, especially among a female audience, through the issue of child trafficking, say several experts.
Many of these posts contain the hashtags #SaveTheChildren (save the kids) or #SaveOurChildren (save our kids), which are now associated with QAnon.
The NGO Save The Children has also recently drawn attention to this hashtag identical to its name, which is "unusually high" attracting online visitors and "confusing (its) supporters and the general public".
Some Instagram influencers have helped spread them by using Qanon's stories in their posts.
"The accounts of these influencers have an aesthetic, a branding applied to QAnon content and softening the posts, videos and images traditionally associated with these statements," Marc recently explained on Twitter. André Argentino, researcher specializing in the relations between extremism and technology at Concordia University in Montreal.
"But behind QAnon and everything it conveys, still lurks: racism, disinformation about medical topics like COVID-19, violence and now the damaging impact of their appropriation of the" save the kids "hashtag on NGO & # 39; s who for their part really save lives, ”he recalls.
"Many people are deceived out of compassion," emphasizes researcher Julien Bellaiche: "But that can be dangerous. You can run into something and not see where it can take you."
Influencers aren't the only personalities promoting QAnon: Donald Trump himself has sometimes made conspiratorial words.
In a September interview, he called Joe Biden, his Democratic rival in the race for the White House, a puppet controlled by "people you've never heard of, people living in the" shadow ". # 39 ;.
He also referred to the supporters of QAnon saying, "They like me very much."
These conspiracy theories, sometimes considered ridiculous, have nevertheless had real consequences in the past.
In the 2016 US presidential election, internet users on the anonymous 4chan discussion board claimed that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was involved in a pedophile circle in a pizza restaurant in Washington.
Convinced by this false information, a man attacked this restaurant with a rifle, making no casualties.
In the tradition of this "pizza date", QAnon settled in the landscape.
Banners and T-shirts with the letter "Q" flourished during anti-containment protests in Berlin, Paris and London. QAnon says the pandemic was created to divert human trafficking.
In the United States, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a staunch supporter of QAnon, is expected to enter Congress shortly after her primary victory in August in a Republican stronghold in Georgia.
There was also some false information circulating about child trafficking in Europe and Africa.
Posts totaling more than 8,000 shares on Facebook recently falsely claimed that a building in the South African administrative capital Pretoria was a hotbed of human trafficking.
According to researcher Julien Bellaiche, the current pandemic context brings together the ideal conditions for the spread of conspiracy theories.
“During the lockdown, people spent more time online looking for solutions to phenomena beyond their control,” he analyzes: “The more you watch videos, the more you feel like you belong to a community. "