The PizzaGate conspiracy theory took another bizarre turn this week, with Reddit and Twitter moving to crack down on the controversial claim that Hillary Clinton is part of a child sex scandal centered on a Washington pizzeria.
The sites this week moved to strike down some of the biggest hubs of discussion regarding the largely debunked idea that Hillary Clinton and campaign manager John Podesta were part of a vast underground child sex ring centered out of a popular Washington, D.C., pizzeria. Twitter has reportedly squashed the #PizzaGate hashtag from becoming a trending topic, and Reddit moved on Tuesday to shut down the PizzaGate subreddit for violations of the site’s rule against posting personal information in an effort to spark a witch hunt.
The Reddit move was met with plenty of resistance, with some users speculating that Reddit is part of the conspiracy to keep PizzaGate under wraps. It also came just after a Twitter user allegedly exposed accounts like to child pornography on the site, one user pointed out.
“So r/pizzagate got taken down the day after 1000’s of accounts linked to [child pornography] were discovered on Twitter and then James Alefantis is in the Washington Times talking about it the same day? Something smells funny,” the user wrote.
— Brittany Pettibone (@BrittPettibone) November 22, 2016
There could be other moves to end discussion on PizzaGate. Some shadowy conspiracy theory sites like The Daily Sheeple have reported receiving DCMA notices to take down Instagram pictures they claim are evidence of the child sex ring.
The PizzaGate claims have been spreading across social media in the past two weeks, starting with a twisted interpretation of an email that WikiLeaks released from Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta. After a seemingly innocuous reference to pizza, conspiracy theorists decided that both he and Clinton were part of a pedophile ring operating out of a popular Washington, D.C., pizza place called Comet Ping Pong.
The accusations actually go much deeper than that, as Reddit user DumbScribblyUnctious wrote in a rambling 4,770-word summary.
“While initially not the central focus of the investigation at the onset, Comet Ping Pong is a much more overt and much more disturbing hub of coincidences,” the post claimed. “Everyone associated with the business is making semi-overt, semi-tongue-in-cheek, and semi-sarcastic inferences towards sex with minors. The artists that work for and with the business also generate nothing but cultish imagery of disembodiment, blood, beheadings, sex, and of course pizza.”
The PizzaGate conspiracy theory has been largely debunked, with the New York Times noting that it is part of a fake news epidemic spreading across Facebook and other social media in which hyper-partisan news sites present loosely attributed stories or unsourced claims as true.
Naturally, many users took this to mean the New York Times is part of the conspiracy theory as well and invested in keeping it under wraps.
— Steve Pieczenik (@StevePieczenik) November 23, 2016
Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis also told Washington City Paper that he and his employees have been harassed as a result of PizzaGate.
The crackdown on the PizzaGate site on Reddit is part of a larger effort across the site to crack down on fake news and witch hunts — with PizzaGate falling into both categories. The site’s Donald Trump-supporting site, The_Donald, on Tuesday instituted its own crackdown on conspiracy theories. The board had become a source of discussion for a number of unverified claims surrounding Hillary Clinton, including a report that she was involved in the July murder of a young Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.
On Tuesday, The_Donald took aim both at PizzaGate and other conspiracy theories surrounding WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the Guardian noted.
A moderator noted in an explanation that the conspiracy theories may have been pushed there in an effort to discredit the site.
“I will do everyone a favor and be completely transparent – yes, we remove quite a bit of this content. Why? The vast majority of what gets posted here in regards to these topics is simply concern trolling about us not giving them sticky space, outlandish and unverifiable claims, or illegal content. We also allow a portion of it to remain on the sub, though we do not provide it sticky space,” a moderator wrote.
The moves to strike down conversation on PizzaGate may be having the opposite effect than intended. Discussions on the topic appeared to jump after the social media sites moved to squash them, with many adherents deciding that they must be in on the conspiracy to keep it hidden.
[Featured Image by Tim Boyle/Getty Images]