Even if you’re not an avid follower of conspiracy theories, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the recent one about Wayfair trafficking underage girls through some overpriced cabinets, or as some of us like to call it, “Wayfairgate.” The fact that it’s been debunked by multiple outlets hasn’t stopped the theory from spreading across TikTok, Instagram, and of course, Twitter. Evidently, it hasn’t stopped people from dialling national U.S. hotlines about the case, either.
According to a statement put out today by the Polaris Project — the D.C.-based nonprofit that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline — their lines have been inundated with calls regarding the Wayfair conspiracy over the past few days.
“While Polaris treats all calls to the Trafficking Hotline seriously, the extreme volume of these contacts has made it more difficult for the Trafficking Hotline to provide support and attention to others who are in need of help,” they write, adding that none of the reports they’ve received had any information outside of, well, what was already shared in the viral r/conspiracy post that set off this nationwide hunt in the first place. Polaris added that none of the reports were made by anyone with “a specific connection to any alleged missing children.”
With that in mind, it’s kind of hard to wrap your head around what, exactly, these calls were supposed to accomplish. The Polaris Project’s own “about” page explains in black and white that its goal is to connect anyone who’s a victim of sex or labour trafficking with the appropriate aid — it’s not a place where folks “look into” a theory you saw floating around on Reddit.
As today’s statement goes on to say, the Polaris hotline isn’t any sort of law enforcement agency. “Our role in situations like this is to provide information for potential investigation to other agencies as warranted,” they added.
Put another way, their job is to listen, and to take appropriate action when they have the victim on the other end of the line. It’s really hard to take any sort of action when you’re not only unconnected to any of the alleged trafficking victims, but when you don’t even have proof that those victims exist.
“We deeply appreciate those members of the public who have contacted the Trafficking Hotline out of heartfelt concern,” they go on to say. “In the vast majority of situations, the people in the best position to identify trafficking are victims and survivors themselves and the people who know them. This may be friends or family members, teachers, but may also be people who have some information but are not necessarily close to the situation.”
This is all a very polite way of telling amateur Reddit sleuths to knock off their calls into the hotline, and to let them get back to connecting the thousands of trafficking victims who call in every year to get the help that they desperately need. That’s kind of their job, after all.