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Posts linking the Beirut explosion to Hillary Clinton and a human trafficking operation have been widely shared in Facebook groups dedicated to the Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracy theories.
Lebanese officials have attributed the blast to the ignition of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, although they haven’t ruled out a “rocket or bomb” as a possible cause of the fire.
There is no evidence that Clinton or a sex trafficking operation had anything to do with the tragedy.
A discredited 2016 conspiracy theory has resurfaced in the aftermath of an explosion in Beirut that killed at least 157 people.
A post published Aug. 4 on Facebook includes a screenshot of footage from Al Jazeera. A rectangular object is circled in the background.
"Evergreen Shipping Container," reads a caption on the image. "Human Trafficking by HRC."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Similar posts have been shared thousands of times in Facebook groups dedicated to the Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracy theories, according to CrowdTangle, a social media insights tool owned by Facebook. Both conspiracy theories make baseless claims about public figures’ connections to child sex trafficking rings.
(Screenshot from Facebook)
The conspiracy theory promoted on Facebook after the Beirut explosion goes like this:
Hillary Clinton is allegedly part of a cabal that’s involved in a global child sex trafficking operation. Clinton’s Secret Service code name was "evergreen." Evergreen is also the name of a Taiwanese shipping company that’s allegedly linked to sex trafficking. Photos from the scene of the Beirut explosion appear to show shipping containers. Therefore, someone bombed Beirut to cover up Clinton’s tracks.
That’s the story. But it’s baseless.
Let’s start with the facts.
A large explosion occurred Aug. 4 at the port of Beirut. Lebanese officials have attributed the tragedy to the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical commonly used in fertilizer, with the aid of fireworks. However, the developing investigation hasn’t ruled out a "rocket or bomb" as a possible cause of the fire.
In 2019, the port of Beirut moved more than 1.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units of cargo. Satellite imagery from before and after the explosion shows dozens of shipping containers along the waterfront. Put bluntly: Ports have shipping containers.
Evergreen Marine Corp., a company based in Taipei, works with the Phoenician Maritime Agency to ship cargo to Beirut. We found no evidence that it’s involved in a human trafficking operation. Clinton’s Secret Service codename was "evergreen," which she herself has said.
It’s unclear if the image in the Facebook post depicts an Evergreen shipping container. And even if it did, none of those discrete facts would add up to what the post is claiming.
There is no evidence that Clinton is involved in a sex trafficking ring. The false conspiracy theory has been circulating since 2016.
The Pizzagate conspiracy theory emerged after WikiLeaks released emails from John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager. Some fringe internet users noticed that Podesta had communicated with the owner of Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., to discuss a potential fundraiser, and they claimed that Podesta’s use of the word "pizza" was a code word for pedophilia.
The successor of Pizzagate is QAnon, a right-wing conspiracy theory that in part alleges President Donald Trump and former special counsel Robert Mueller are working together to arrest child molesting elites. Groups dedicated to the conspiracy theory often float unproven or bogus claims in the wake of major news events.
While investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the Beirut explosion, there is no indication that it had anything to do with Clinton or a sex trafficking ring. We rate this post False.
Al Jazeera, "LIVE: Protests as Lebanon detains 16 over Beirut explosion," Aug. 7, 2020
CrowdTangle, accessed Aug. 7, 2020
Evergreen Marine Corp., "Evergreen boosts East Mediterranean and Adriatic agency network"
Facebook post, Aug. 4, 2020
Facebook post, Aug. 5, 2020
Facebook post, Aug. 6, 2020
NBC News, "Satellite imagery shows scale of destruction after explosion at Beirut port," Aug. 5, 2020
PolitiFact, "Did the media ‘change the identity’ of the El Paso shooter?’ Nope," Aug. 5, 2019
PolitiFact, "How Pizzagate went from fake news to a real problem for a D.C. business," Dec. 5, 2016
PolitiFact, "No evidence Israel hit Beirut with a nuclear missile," Aug. 5, 2020
PolitiFact, "QAnon conspiracy theorists seek to link Beirut explosion to Rothschilds," Aug. 6, 2020
Sky News, "Beirut explosion: Lebanon's president doesn't rule out 'rocket or bomb' as possible cause," Aug. 7, 2020
Statistics from the Beirut Container Terminal Consortium, accessed Aug. 7, 2020
The Washington Post, "Here are the 2016 candidates’ Secret Service code names — and your own," July 28, 2016
YouTube video from BuzzFeed News, June 12, 2019
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