Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Fact or Fiction?, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation
The bizarre tale of Comet Ping Pong restaurant and “Pizzagate” provides a case study in how fake stories proliferate online.
Update: And now it’s somehow gotten darker.
Another update: There is now a direct link between the spread of Pizzagate rumors and the nascent Trump Administration.
“The saga of ‘Pizzagate’: The fake story that shows how conspiracy theories spread”
December 2, 2016
No victim has come forward. There’s no investigation. And physical evidence? That doesn’t exist either.
But thousands of people are convinced that a paedophilia ring involving people at the highest levels of the Democratic Party is operating out of a Washington pizza restaurant.
The story riveted fringes of Twitter – nearly a million messages were sent last month using the term “pizzagate”.
So how did this fake story take hold amongst alt-right Trump supporters and other Hillary Clinton opponents?
Let’s start with the facts.
In early November, as Wikileaks steadily released piles of emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, one contact caught the attention of prankster sites and people on the paranoid fringes.
James Alefantis is the owner of Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in Washington. He’s also a big Democratic Party supporter and raised money for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He was once in a relationship with David Brock, an influential liberal operative.
Alefantis – who’s never met Clinton – appeared in the Podesta emails in connection with the fundraisers.
And from these thin threads, an enormous trove of conspiracy fiction was spun. Read more.