Baseless QAnon conspiracy theories accusing celebrities of horrific child abuse have been a hallmark of online disinformation campaigns for nearly a decade.
Despite an absence of evidence behind allegations that famous public figures are somehow connected to an underground network of child abusers, the theories have permeated online conversations, infamously supporting and courting the attention of former President Donald Trump.
While these bizarre and damaging claims have quieted down in recent years, many still find their way above the parapet, including a spurious rumor spread on Twitter this week.
A tweet, which was posted on November 27 and has received more than 35,000 engagements, includes a photo of what looks like a BBC News story with the headline “Tom Hanks arrested on 135 counts of child porn possession.”
The tweet says, “Remember this- Tom Hanks arrest was on the BBC website for a few moments.”
The claim about Tom Hanks is completely false. It is based on a fabricated BBC News story that has previously been spread on social media.
As confirmed by Reuters, the photo is digitally manipulated. The BBC confirmed to Reuters it did not publish the story.
Newsweek has found no such stories from other bona fide media outlets about Tom Hanks’ arrest.
Hanks has been the target of other false and conspiracist claims connected to QAnon before, including that he claimed Greek citizenship because child abuse there is “classified as a disability.”
QAnon conspiracy theories, typified by false claims connecting public figures to child abuse crimes, have circulated for nearly a decade.
Theories include (among others) that there is a cabal of high-profile satanic pedophiles who torture and kill children in order to harvest adrenochrome.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been persistently associated with this false narrative for a number of years, with the suggestion that Democrats are involved in a secret child abuse ring, prompting the debunked “Pizzagate” theory that went viral in 2016.
Other celebrities have likewise been dragged by social media into related claims; Paul Walker, Anne Heche and Anthony Bourdain were all falsely said to have been investigating child sex rings before they died, a pattern of storytelling that has emerged online following the deaths of famous figures.
Tom Hanks has not been arrested for the crimes alleged in the tweet. The image the claim is based on is sourced from a fabricated article made to appear as if it had been published by the British broadcaster.
The BBC has previously confirmed it has not published the story and there is no evidence that Hanks is tied to child abuse.
The baseless rumor is thought to stem from QAnon conspiracy theories that link celebrities and other public figures to an underground cabal of child abusers.
FACT CHECK by Newsweek‘s Fact Check team
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