Pro-Trump message boards and fake news sites use ridiculous image to accuse Obama of satanism

Pro-Trump message boards and fake news sites are absurdly suggesting former President Barack Obama practices satanism.

Since at least June 15, message boards on 4chan, Reddit, and Voat have pushed an image of a person who users say is Obama in some kind of headdress. Some of the users on the boards have pointed to the image to claim that “Q” (referring to the “QAnon” conspiracy theory) “leaked this photo of 0bama” to “prep the population for the exposure for the first time in history [of] the satanic cult that has run the world.” They also wrote that it was proof of “a satanic pedo cult” and that “Pizzagate is real” (nope, it still isn’t), that Obama is a “satanic niggerfaggot” and a “proven Satanist,” that Obama is part of the “satanic elites” and “a satanic cult that traffics children,” and that the picture is part of the “final destruction of Barack Hussein Obama.” Followers of the “QAnon” conspiracy theory have also used the image on Twitter.

The image supposedly comes from an Instagram account that posted it on the day of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The account has since deleted the image, explaining that there was “too much hate & not enough support.” Yet the image does not appear to exist anywhere else, per a Google reverse image search (the only results are the images that originated from that Instagram image, and there doesn’t appear to be any result for the image besides that account or before this past week). And forensics from InVID, a verification tool, suggest possible anomalies in the image -- specifically via tests showing whether a JPEG had been tampered with and manipulated -- similar to those identified in the fake image of Parkland, FL, mass shooting survivor Emma González, suggesting the image’s legitimacy is suspect.

Nonetheless, multiple fake news sites have run with the suspect image. Neon Nettle claimed that a “leaked image of Barack Obama dressed as Satan” has gone “viral,” and a similar article with nearly the same headline was subsequently posted by YourNewsWire.

The articles have been shared on Facebook, where they have drawn nearly 50,000 engagements combined, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, and been shared in groups dedicated to Pizzagate and to “QAnon.” In those groups, the image was cited as proof that Obama “went to an illuminati wedding” and is a “Satanic Pedovore.”

The image has also been shared on social media by a band; the Florida state director of The New Right, an organization co-founded by far-right figure Mike Tokes (the state director said it was “a picture of” Obama “dressed up as Satan”); Austen Fletcher, a contributor for far-right outlet The Rebel; white nationalist Hal Turner, and YouTube host Anthony Brian Logan. It’s also been shared in YouTube videos that have ads, meaning the accounts that uploaded the videos are making money off of the image. Even the International Business Times’ India site shared it as real, with the actual headline “Barack Obama's satanic image goes viral: Are Illuminati and Antichrist real?”