If you really want to #SaveTheChildren, stop sharing QAnon conspiracy theories

Apparently, I'm being paid off by pedophiles.

This payoff is news to me, but it's what Some Random People on the Internet are saying, so it must be true, right? That's how this works? What other reason would I have for sharing factual information about the very real issue of child sex trafficking and calling out false stories of Satanic pedophile rings in which famous evil overlords like Tom Hanks, Oprah, and Hillary Clinton torture and sacrifice children to increase their own power? I simply must be "in on it" somehow.

That seems to be more plausible in some people's minds than the idea that the wild "Pizzagate" child sex ring theory, which has already been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked, could be fabricated by online trolls and perpetuated by politically-motivated players. People believe Pizzagate is real because they've been convinced that the entire media industry is in cahoots and because fringe "sources" with no oversight and no accountability—who insist they're the only ones telling the truth—said so.


Here's the thing about such conspiracy theories. (Yes, I know. Some of you think the term "conspiracy theory" was coined by the CIA—read this and stay out of my inbox, please.) Some conspiracy theories are goofy, but harmless. The "flat earth" thing, for example, or the idea that we faked the moon landing. Those beliefs are easily disproven and obviously ridiculous, but no one is being hurt by them. We can all laugh, shake our heads, and move on.

But these outrageous child sex trafficking conspiracy theories like those pushed by QAnon are harmful. Child sex trafficking is a very real, very serious, and very lucrative industry that organizations and governments have been battling for a long time. But QAnon isn't just saying "child sex trafficking is real and important and we need to shed a light on it." They're saying "There is a secret, global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who control everything—including politicians, the media, and Hollywood—and who engage in child sex trafficking and ritual sacrifice to harvest adenochrome from children, and Trump is here to save us all from their evil and it's only a matter of time before they all go down."

Those are two very different things—the issue of child sex trafficking (which is real) and the idea that Hillary Clinton literally sucking the lifeblood out of children in a pizza parlor basement (which doesn't even exist). The fact that we're nearly four years into Trump's presidency and none of these supposed Satanic pedophiles have actually been arrested—despite Trump supposedly knowing all about their dastardly deeds, according to Q—is more than a little weird. But that isn't stopping people from believing this stuff.

It's also not stopping people from hijacking perfectly good hashtags associated with perfectly good organizations and using them to "raise awareness" about this evil. This is why the #SaveTheChildren hashtag is suddenly showing up everywhere. As Kevin Roose wrote in the New York Times:

"The idea, in a nutshell, is to create a groundswell of concern by flooding social media with posts about human trafficking, joining parenting Facebook groups and glomming on to hashtag campaigns like #SaveTheChildren, which began as a legitimate fund-raising campaign for the Save the Children charity. Then followers can shift the conversation to baseless theories about who they believe is doing the trafficking: a cabal of nefarious elites that includes Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey and Pope Francis."

Some unsuspecting people are using this hashtag to talk about child sex trafficking in general, but many posts refer to the evil Hollywood elite and include various QAnon hashtags along with it. And by evil Hollywood elite, they don't mean the legitimate issue of Jeffrey Epstein and investigations into his sleazy, slimy, sick habits. They mean "The Cabal."

Some #SaveTheChildren posters are surely unaware that they've been sucked into a conspiracy theory web of disinformation, but those of us who have been following the QAnon phenomenon recognize the virtual fingerprints of a QAnon push. Some of it is obvious, like seeing the #WWG1WGA (a QAnon acronym—"Where we go one, we go all") accompanying many of these posts. But it's also the fact that #SaveTheChildren was soon changed to #SaveOurChildren. Why? Because QAnon followers got wind that Bill and Melinda Gates financially support the actual Save the Children organization that the hashtag originally was used for. And Bill Gates, of course, is one of those "evil global elites" who, according to QAnon, created the coronavirus on purpose in order to push his vaccine agenda and depopulate the planet.

So yeah. The #SaveTheChildren thing is a big effing mess.

What's the big deal, though? Isn't it just important that we raise awareness about child sex trafficking in general? Of course it is. But unfounded conspiracy theories are not only unhelpful to that cause, but actively harmful.

The Polaris Project is an organization that provides social services to victims of sex trafficking, works with law enforcement to perform crisis interventions for possible victims of trafficking, and runs the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline. In a blog post, the organization explained how these unfounded conspiracy theories actually do harm to the child sex trafficking cause.

"A barrage of conspiracy-related reports from people with no direct knowledge of trafficking situations can overwhelm services meant for victims," the site states, pointing out that the recent Wayfair child sex trafficking conspiracy theory flooded their hotline with more calls than they could handle, with zero real leads to real victims, clogging the line so that real victims couldn't get through. They also point out that such theories can lead to loss of privacy or safety for victims or innocent bystanders. (Check out the threats and violence the owner of Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor in Washington D.C. has had to deal with over "Pizzagate.")

In addition, and perhaps most importantly, "Conspiracies distract from the more disturbing but simple realities of how sex trafficking actually works, and how we can prevent it." In other words, all this Pizzagate and Wayfair and adenochrome-sucking nonsense actually pulls people away from the reality of child sex trafficking and interferes with the work people could actually be doing to help prevent it. Most children aren't kidnapped out of the blue to be sold and abused, but are trafficked or abused by people they know. (See this article written by a woman who was trafficked by her father throughout her childhood.) Polaris encourages people to learn more about what trafficking actual is, what it looks like, and how it generally happens, rather than circulating misinformation.

The bottom line: While #SaveTheChildren might seem like a righteous thing to share, we have to recognize that there's a boatload of misinformation that is being shared along with it, and such misinformation can do more harm than good.

What should we do then to actually fight for children who are wrapped up in sex trafficking? Follow legitimate organizations that have been doing this work for years. Pay attention to what they say, as well as what they don't. (You won't find any of them endorsing QAnon conspiracies. If there were truth to them, these are the folks who would be first in line to shed light on it and do something about it.) Here are some to check out:

Polaris Project

Love146

The Exodus Road

ECPAT-USA

Thorn

Operation Underground Railroad

International Justice Mission

You can also learn more about child sex trafficking on the United States Department of Justice website.

Child sex trafficking is worthy cause to get behind. Just makes sure you're getting behind the real issue, supporting real organizations with the expertise to help, and avoiding conspiracy theories that only serve to distract from the real work being done to actually #SaveTheChildren.

Pexels
True
Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.