How QAnon Hijacks Anti-Traffic and What Can Be Done About It
QAnon’s depiction of trafficking repeats many of the myths that anti-trafficking experts have long sought to rectify. These include the common misconception that human trafficking is just about gender and has little to do with labor exploitation, organ harvesting, child soldiers or child marriage. This suggests that boys are more likely to be trafficked than men, which is not true. And QAnon’s focus on child abduction perpetuates the lie that most victims of human trafficking are kidnapped, which is also not the case.
Q has grown to post on a variety of topics and individuals that divide Americans, including Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, the Russian collusion investigation, fake news, the Red Cross, Jeffrey Epstein, Covid-19 and electoral fraud. Its influence is immense, with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue reporting tens of millions of social media posts in the United States and other countries. The entry point to participation in QAnon, however, is the fundamental belief that the abduction and exploitation of children is the primary source of elite power.
The effects of QAnon
Trafficking conspiracies shared in support of QAnon are hampering genuine attempts to prevent trafficking. Speaking anonymously because of the Q threats she has received, a senior executive from a national anti-trafficking organization in Washington said: “It definitely hinders our work when we are harassed and controlled because of disinformation campaigns… It’s exhausting work. It’s traumatic work. It’s something we all do because there’s such an extreme need in our communities and across the country. And that makes it all so much more difficult.
Beyond its use of ancient myths, QAnon’s structure (or non-structure) seems to invite even more unique and bizarre mythologies from its devotees. Among these is the unsubstantiated claim that furniture store Wayfair runs a child trafficking ring and names furniture after actual child victims of trafficking. Another shared rumor warns people to beware of white vans with external locks as a sign of possible traffic activity. Almost by design, the absurdity of these stories renders a reasoned answer fruitless. Sincere and informed anti-trafficking messages can engage the public on difficult and critical issues. They are not, however, equipped to respond to ridiculous memes that are totally disconnected from reality.