Wayfair denies being involved in international child trafficking ring

BOSTON — Social media lit up as talk of furniture-seller, Wayfair, was behind a child trafficking ring.

“It was that question that was asked on Reddit which started this small, snowballing effect,” said CEO of BigFishPR David Richard. “It, then, on QAnon blew up which is a group on Reddit that talks about conspiracy theories.”

From there, the buzz moved to TikTok, an online site where people create short videos. A fake Wayfair ad showed a child in a delivery box. Soon after, online rumors started swirling that the Boston-based company was using its five-figure priced cabinets as a front for child trafficking.

Richard, a public relations expert and communications professor at Emerson College, gave his take on the power of social media.

"Before you know it, you have an individual who has not gone to journalism school, who has no experience in politics or as a celebrity for that matter, basically coming up with ideas and throwing them on the internet and having those ideas actually take root," said Richard.

Wayfair denied the claims and the hefty price tag behind its products. Boston 25 reached out to the company for comment, but have not heard back. Wayfair did tell the Associated Press, ”The products in question are industrial grade cabinets that are accurately priced.”

The company went on to say, “We have temporarily removed the products from site to rename them and to provide a more in-depth description and photos that accurately depict the product to clarify the price point.”

“It’s like an avalanche,” said Richard. “It’s really difficult to to stop it. What you really need to do is more get out of its way and have a managed crisis plan for dealing with it as it starts to run out of steam.”

What one sees on social media isn't necessarily fact but when something goes viral, as Richard explained, it can make or break a brand depending on how it's handled.

“It creates a platform to have a discussion of what their products are,” said Richard. “The fact of the matter is I didn’t know that Wayfair sold cabinets up until two days ago. Right now, a lot of people are learning about Wayfair selling furniture.”

Richard also says the group behind the Wayfair buzz is responsible for other online conspiracy theories.