A QAnon influencer who was reinstated on Twitter by Elon Musk caused a baseless conspiracy theory linking Huggies diapers and pedophilia to gain traction online, forcing the diaper company to publicly rebut it. It is yet another case of Musk’s decision-making with Twitter harming the platform’s user base.
The QAnon influencer known online as “Vincent Kennedy” was banned from Twitter following the January 6, 2021, insurrection. However, the account was reinstated in January under Musk and received a checkmark by subscribing to Twitter Blue — meaning Twitter is making money off of the account and actively amplifying its posts.
On March 20, Kennedy tweeted, “Once you truly awake you ain’t going back to sleep,” along with an image of a Huggies’ brand diaper with the Simba character from Disney’s The Lion King. The diaper also depicted circular and triangle-like symbols, which Kennedy highlighted. While it was not explicit, Kennedy’s tweet was almost certainly referring to a claim that these symbols are a signal for supporting pedophilia — a key claim behind the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Subsequently, the tweet earned tens of thousands of retweets and likes, and Twitter’s view count listed the tweet as having millions of views.
The tweet and the related conspiracy theory about Huggies made its way elsewhere online, with fellow conspiracy theorists and QAnon supporters claiming there was “FBI Peadophile Symbolism spotted on Huggies' Disney Nappies/Diapers,” that the diapers had “Pedophile designs,” and that Huggies may even be “breaking the law” by using the symbols. Videos on TikTok pushing the conspiracy theory gained particular traction, getting nearly 1 million combined views.
Huggies’ official Twitter account rebutted the conspiracy theory in public, directly responding to Kennedy’s original tweet: “Kimberly-Clark and Huggies® take the safety and well-being of children seriously. Our products and its’ designs are in no way meant to represent anything other than fun and playful designs.” That response in turn was used by online conspiracy theorists to further amplify the conspiracy theory.
The spread of the conspiracy theory comes after a similar baseless conspiracy theory spread online in 2020 about the e-commerce company Wayfair, when a QAnon supporter instigated a viral conspiracy theory that the company was involved with human trafficking.
The conspiracy theory’s spread also comes as Musk has reinstated dozens of extremist and misinformation-peddling accounts on Twitter and interacted with far-right accounts hundreds of times, including boosting a previously banned QAnon influencer dozens of times. (Supporters in the QAnon community have praised and hyped Musk as an ally.) Musk has also fired content moderation staff and weakened enforcement policies against misinformation on Twitter, and the platform has subsequently lost hundreds of millions in advertising revenue.
The ranks of fleeing advertisers appear to include Huggies’ parent company, Kimberly-Clark Corp., which previously advertised on Twitter, according to a Media Matters analysis of Pathmatics data. This data also appears to show that Kimberly-Clark Corp. paused advertising on Twitter in November 2022, following Musk’s purchase of the platform at the end of October.