In the comments, some people were angrily insisting that they were not bots and that their indignation was both human and sincere. Fair enough! But some of those people, and many others, were also in the comments accusing Ellen and Portia of human trafficking and pedophilia. So many, in fact, that I remembered the weird Tom Hanks text. Could they be connected?
Yes, yes, they are. Unfortunately, it appears that both DeGeneres and Tom Hanks, along with Oprah Winfrey, have become targets of rumors from the right-wing conspiracy group known as QAnon, which spreads narratives about a cabal of global elites who kidnap children. Recently, QAnon has started “piggybacking on the anti-human-trafficking movement,” as Kevin Roose recently wrote for The New York Times. Q adherents, as the conspiracy’s followers are called, are now insisting that Ellen, Tom, Oprah, and other high-profile liberal celebrities are part of a global pedophile ring.
And this means that now, de Rossi’s Instagram is flooded with hundreds of comments from people like @patriot_mom70, who wrote: “Be kind to one another??? How about be kind to sex trafficked children???? I stand for the children!!! Wow!! ?” Even Portia’s older photos, like one of her dogs, are being inundated with angry messages imploring her to stop hurting kids.
I suspect that de Rossi conflated this onslaught of baseless, conspiratorial accusations with the backlash from credible allegations of misconduct on DeGeneres’ show. What I initially assumed was an unusual defense from Portia looks much more like an indication that this conspiracy is continuing to seep into mainstream conversation.
Recently, several major social networks have made belated efforts to clamp down on QAnon. Facebook began to remove accounts associated with it in May and banned a QAnon group with more than 200,000 members earlier this month. Twitter, Roku, Reddit, and TikTok have all made some efforts to minimize this strain of conspiracy-mongering, too. But this thing shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, this week, a QAnon supporter running for Congress in Georgia won her primary.
Someone check on Tom Hanks.
It’s confirmed—this week, Joe Biden announced Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate. So it’s a good time to read WIRED’s latest piece on Harris’ history with tech and dig through older reporting on how she has dealt with the digital world in the past.