Followers of the far-right conspiracy theory group QAnon have been accused of hijacking the anti-human trafficking slogan "save the children" to push a political agenda on social media.
A column by Kevin Roose in the New York Times claimed an acquaintance of his posted a photo on her Instagram story showing a map of the United States, filled in with bright red dots. It included the caption: “This is not a map of Covid. It is a map of human trafficking," and the hashtag #SaveTheChildren.
Several days later, Roose said he saw the hashtag trending on Twitter.
"Many of them believed that President Trump was on the verge of exposing 'Pizzagate' or 'Pedogate,'" he wrote. "Their terms for a global conspiracy involving a ring of Satan-worshiping, child-molesting criminals led by prominent Democrats," including Hillary Clinton.
QAnon, thought to have been founded in 2017, has been tied to theories about a "deep state" attack against President Trump, involving career bureaucrats who are hellbent on taking down the commander-in-chief. It’s unclear who "Q" actually is, and if he or she is just one person or multiple people. People supporting QAnon began appearing at Trump campaign rallies in 2018 and the president has retweeted QAnon-affiliated accounts dozens of times.
Twitter reportedly banned thousands of accounts associated with QAnon content late last month and also blocked URLs associated with it from being shared on the platform. In addition, Twitter said it would stop highlighting and recommending tweets associated with QAnon, Fox 8 reported.
"Its most recent growth strategy involves piggybacking on the anti-human-trafficking movement," Roose wrote.
He claimed QAnon will hijack the human trafficking debate in order to peddle its own beliefs, but also admitted to the glaring connections between child sex trafficking and various rich and famous elite, who live in the public eye.
If anything, reports of famous people being connected to human trafficking will only serve to boost the group's message with the mainstream public, whether their claims are true or not, Roose added.
"Some politically connected people, including the financier Jeffrey Epstein, have been credibly accused of exploiting underage girls," he explained. "And speaking out against child exploitation, no matter your politics, is far from an objectionable stance... Sometimes, QAnon followers spin factual information in a way that serves their aims."