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The Instagram aesthetic that made QAnon mainstream

Conspiracy theory researchers explain how QAnon spread through Instagram.

Christophe Haubursin is a senior producer for the Vox video team. Since joining the team in 2016, he has produced for Vox’s YouTube channel and Emmy-nominated shows Glad You Asked and Explained.

At first glance, the memes under the hashtag #SaveTheChildren don’t look that different from anything else you’d expect to see on Instagram. With a similar visual language to the social justice infographic slideshows that dominated the social media platform this summer, the posts feature soft pastel colors and trendy fonts, telling viewers to “wake up” about child trafficking.

What people seeing these images — and some of the people posting them — might not know, however, is that the #SaveTheChildren hashtag is being used by the QAnon movement to spread its ideology to a much wider audience.

After three years of leaving QAnon largely unchecked, Facebook said in August it had removed hundreds of QAnon Facebook Groups and Pages for “discussions of potential violence.” But as that was happening, membership on Facebook Groups and Pages branded as anti-child trafficking grew a stunning 3,000 percent — and inside those groups, users predominantly shared QAnon content.

Watch the video above to see how high-profile accounts — including celebrities, mommy bloggers, and wellness influencers — helped spread #SaveTheChildren, and what it meant for the spread of QAnon this summer.

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