YouTube made money from videos promoting the baseless Wayfair conspiracy theory
Multiple videos on YouTube pushing a baseless human-trafficking conspiracy theory about the company Wayfair have ads, meaning both YouTube and the accounts posting the videos are making money while advancing harmful misinformation.
Since July 9, the conspiracy theory, which baselessly alleges that the online home furniture company is involved with human trafficking because of the names and prices of some of its products, has spread on social media platforms, and the company has been forced to deny it. Those platforms include YouTube: A review by Media Matters since July 9 of English-language YouTube videos with “wayfair” in the title on the tracking tool BuzzSumo found multiple videos that give credence to the conspiracy theory or fully embrace it and that run ads, meaning both the account owners and YouTube make money from them.
One video with ads, titled “Wayfair Child Trafficking* CEO Steps Down Debunked,” featured a man claiming the company had not “provided any statement worth value to -- to explain this” and that the company “know[s] full well” what was happening.
Another video, this one from YouTuber Hailey Reese and titled “Disturbing Wayfair Conspiracy…,” cited and aired a clip from a known supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory to push the allegation.
One video featured a person using tarot cards to speculate that Wayfair’s CEO would be arrested and murdered because he had been “procuring and selling children for a long time.”
Another video featured an image of pizza cut up into some kind of demonic shape (possibly a reference to the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory) while accusing Wayfair of being involved with “the trafficking of children.”
Other videos with ads included someone trying to rebut a fact-checker’s debunk of the conspiracy theory, supposed messages from former Wayfair employees allegedly proving the conspiracy theory, a video with a voiceover saying that there is “the potential that [the conspiracy theory] is actually real,” a man suggesting it was true because multiple people pushed it, and a woman claiming that “there’s a lot of reason to believe that” the conspiracy theory “may be true -- as well as may not be true.”
Additionally, in at least one instance a video pushing the conspiracy theory featured “super chats” -- where people can pay the account to have their comments featured. In the video, two men compared the conspiracy theory to Pizzagate.
The monetization of the Wayfair conspiracy theory on YouTube comes as the platform has repeatedly struggled to prevent misinformation and toxic content from being used to make money.