Ionized, a small business based in Houston selling party supplies and other novelty items, found itself at the center of a TikTok-hatched conspiracy theory that eventually led the police to the store’s warehouse.
IN TEXAS: Bakery’s ‘Pride’ cookies spark deluge of hate and support
Several TikToks, including a viral TikTok from user @dontghostme alleged the Ionized store was a front for child trafficking based on high prices for party supplies such as glow sticks and light-up fedora hats on its online storefronts, Mashable’s Matt Binder reports. The TikTok from @dontghostme has since been taken down.
But the more than $15,000 price tag on the light-up hats was for bulk orders of nearly 3,000 hats, not just one. The shop was flooded with harassing emails and 1-star reviews that promoted the conspiracy theory.
“Take this down now!!!! No hats are worth 15 thousand unless your trafficking!!!! SUSPECT!” reads the most highly rated 1-star review on Amazon. “Child trafficking at it finest. #saveourchildren,” reads another.
“Save our children” is a popular phrase used among QAnon conspiracy theorists, who believe former President Donald Trump is fighting against a worldwide Satanic cabal of pedophiles that traffics and eats children. Similar conspiracy theories include allegations that furniture retailer Wayfair was trafficking children through expensive cabinets sold on the site and Pizzagate, which alleged a Washington D.C. pizzeria was the headquarters of a sex trafficking ring headed by Hillary Clinton. The latter conspiracy resulted in a man firing an assault rifle in the restaurant in 2016.
Eventually, the police became involved in the Ionized conspiracy after reportedly receiving calls alleging the business was trafficking children, according to Binder.
“We had seven police officers come [to our warehouse] in a span of three days, back to back to back,” Ali Momin, a partner at Ionized LLC, told Binder. “I told the officers, ‘Look, you can come in any time and just walk around in the warehouse and do what you’ve got to do, but just don’t bother us anymore.’ It was getting to a point where it was ridiculous. And then we had the commissioner come and he apologized. They said they received calls.”
LABOR SHORTAGE?: Johnny Carrabba says no one wants to work at his new Cypress restaurant
While the conspiracy theory isn’t getting the attention it was in April, Momin told Binder the backlash has effectively ruined his business. Momin said Amazon recently shut down the Evolution Planet Deals storefront right before the company’s peak season—the Fourth of July.
“This Amazon store is about 17 years old now,” Momin told Binder in an email. “We suspect it might be all that attention on those products that came from those TikToks.”
“This is devastating,” Momin said.
Source : chron.com