ControversyWayfair: The Unfounded Rumor Linking a Furniture Company to Child Exploitation

Wayfair: The Unfounded Rumor Linking a Furniture Company to Child Exploitation

An odd conspiracy theory that has been circulating online centers on pricey furniture supplied by the US-based company Wayfair and claims of child trafficking.

The false assertions first surfaced on June 14 in the US, but they have now spread throughout the world. There is obviously no truth to these assertions, according to Wayfair.

What Is the Human Trafficking Conspiracy at Wayfair?

According to the notion, Wayfair is selling household items like cabinets, throw pillows, and shower curtains while really trafficking children on their website.

Theorists appear to think that when someone purchases a product advertised for thousands of dollars, they are somehow expressing a wish to buy a child whose name also happens to be the product’s name. Some have speculated that this may be accomplished by using a promotional code, choosing a particular delivery option, or having a Wayfair Professional account.

Some people claim that some Wayfair products have names that are similar to kids who have gone missing in the US. Some people also think that the product weights and dimensions are actually descriptions of children rather than actual items.

A “Samiyah 5 — self-storage cabinet” was listed at $12,899.99 in a user’s screenshot. Samiyah Mumin, 17, was reported missing in Ohio in 2019, which caused concern among many people. On July 10, 2020, a lady representing herself as Mumin went on Facebook Live to say that Mumin was not missing.

Mumin and many other kids whose names matched items from Wayfair were previously missing but are now no longer, according to the Poynter Institute’s Mediawise digital media literacy project. Yaritza Castro of Connecticut, who social media users linked to the conspiracy, has reportedly not been located, according to Media wise.

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Later, conspiracy theorists cited Yandex, a Russian search engine, as evidence that children, not furniture, were being sold on Wayfair’s website. Images of kids are produced when a specific SKU, or product identification number, is searched for on Yandex’s image search after the abbreviations “src USA” or “src run” for the U.S. and Russia, respectively.

Although some have claimed a connection to a Russian modeling agency, it is unclear what “src” stands for. The product’s name and the children’s names in the image search don’t appear to be related in any way.

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What Is Wayfair Saying?

Wayfair has clarified that it utilizes an algorithm to name its products, which is why some of its products have child names (other retailers also use first names to brand their products).

However, it claims that the specific cabinets are substantial “industrial size” objects intended for corporate or commercial use, acknowledging that the high prices quoted may have caused confusion.

“We have temporarily withdrawn the products from our site to rename them and to provide a more in-depth description and photographs that appropriately describe the product to clarify the price point,” a spokeswoman told BBC News.

Additionally, there are unfounded rumors that the high price of customized pillows, which can reach $10,000, is due to the involvement of child trafficking.

This was denied by Wayfair, who attributed it to a pricing error on their website. Other online retailers occasionally experience the same kinds of issues.

A New Conspiracy Theory

But Before Long, Q Anon Members Presented a Fresh Hypothesis

Some said that photographs of young ladies would show in the search results after they entered the stock-keeping unit (SKU) numbers of particular Wayfair products into Yandex, a significant Russian search engine.

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That assertion was accurate, but it was due to a search engine bug. According to Newsweek, searching Yandex for “any random string of numbers” will provide the same results.

The problem appears to have been fixed by Yandex as similar searches no longer show pictures of young women.

Where Has the Wayfair Conspiracy Spread?

wayfair controversy

Despite starting in the US, the conspiracy theory quickly spread throughout the world.

Data from CrowdTangle, a social media analytics platform owned by Facebook, shows that the phrase “Wayfair” has generated 4.4 million Instagram engagements. Additionally, it spread quickly on Facebook’s public groups and pages, resulting in more than 12,000 posts and about a million direct interactions.

According to BBC Monitoring’s analysis, Turkey had the second-highest amount of content behind the US, where the idea also attracted a lot of attention.

Over the weekend, a popular Argentine YouTube personality’s post regarding the conspiracy had close to 90,000 views throughout Latin America.

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Has This Happened Before?

It resembles the unsubstantiated Pizzagate hoax that circulated online in 2016 during Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency of the United States.

The false information, which first surfaced on social media, claimed that a pizza shop in Washington, DC, was the hub of a purported child sex ring connected to the former presidential candidate’s closest circle.

A US guy set fire to the disputed pizza shop as a result of the conspiracy theory’s popularity.

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