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How the Instagram Influencer Aesthetic Is Being Used to Sell QAnon

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2020

Over the summer, members of the QAnon cult started to take over the “Save the Children” movement on Instagram & Facebook, eventually luring lifestyle influencers into spreading the cult’s message. From the NY Times:

But new research suggests that the biggest jolt to QAnon came from the so-called “Save the Children” movement. It started out as a fund-raising campaign for a legitimate anti-trafficking charity, but was then hijacked by QAnon believers, who used the movement to spread false and exaggerated claims about a global child-trafficking conspiracy led by top Democrats and Hollywood elites. This hijacking began in July, around the same time that Twitter and Facebook began cracking down on QAnon accounts.

What happened is QAnon folks started mass-faving posts about Save the Children and trafficking, so influencers began posting more content related to those topics, using bogus statistics and QAnon talking points. As the video from Vox above explains, child sex trafficking is a legitimate issue but QAnon’s claims about it — and the Instagram-aesthetic memes it has spawned — do not reflect reality. From Michael Hobbes at Huffington Post:

First of all, decades of social science research has found that the vast majority of children are abused by someone they know, usually their parents but sometimes other children or figures of authority they trust. “Stranger danger” kidnappings, on the other hand, are extremely rare — the latest estimate is 115 per year in the entire United States.

Second, the summer-long panic about missing children is almost entirely based on faulty statistics. Though it’s true that more than 400,000 children are reported missing each year, that is not even close to the number who disappear. The vast majority of these reports are misunderstandings or runaways. Roughly 10% are kidnapped by a parent as part of a custody dispute. Over 99% return home, most within a few days.