REUTERS, SEPTEMBER 9, 2020
Posts shared thousands of times on Facebook claim 62 girls were found locked in a shipping container in Delaware headed for Europe. The claim is false. Flagged multiple times as part of Facebook’s efforts to curb misinformation, this claim speaks to the prevalence of conspiracy theories spread by the group QAnon.
The claim appears to have originated from a Sept. 5 Tweet from a now suspended account known as “Robert C. Madrid” with the handle @GetInTheGame8 (here ). The tweet said the girls had just been “rescued by Customs at the port in Delaware. Literally locked in a shipping container bound for Europe!” The “port of Delaware” is likely a reference to the Port of Wilmington in the state’s capital located 63 miles from the Atlantic ocean (www.portofwilmington.com/ ).
Stephen Sapp, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency (here) told Reuters via email that CBP had “thoroughly investigated the claim and found zero evidence to substantiate this false rumor of a human smuggling event through the Port of Wilmington, Del.”
It is more likely, however, that the claim circulated due to activities of QAnon accounts and their followers.
Conspiracy theories by the group often allude to a “secret campaign” by U.S. President Donald Trump against a sex trafficking ring known as Pizzagate ( here ). This stems from a fake online report that a Washington D.C. pizza restaurant was cover for a trafficking ring (here).
Some social media users are reviving such conspiracy theories in the run up to the November election.
The New York Times reported in August that followers of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory have been sharing the hashtag “SaveTheChildren” and “SaveOurChildren,” taking resources away from actual trafficking hotlines and groups working to tackle this issue (here). Posts making the Delaware rescue claim that include #SaveOurChildren and #SaveTheChildren hashtags can be found here , here , and here .
As reported here by Reuters on August 24, misinformation experts have found that Russian government-supported organizations are playing a role amplifying conspiracy theories promoted by QAnon, including ones about child trafficking by Hollywood elites and the coronavirus.
False. 62 girls were not rescued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection from a shipping container in Delaware that was heading for Europe.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .