The Limbik Deep Dive Series: The ‘Corporate Complicity’ Narrative

Updated: Jul 15

In a volatile digital information landscape, it has become increasingly common for companies to be at the center of (foreign) information operations or boycott campaigns driven by political polarization. Reputational harm often stems from a company taking a stance on a societal issue. This has resulted in the politicization of anything from pillow to sports apparel brands. In China, a multinational clothing retailer's flagship store is closing partly due to consumer backlash in the aftermath of the brand’s statement on forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Simultaneously, the popularity of Deep State conspiracies such as QAnon has increasingly led companies to be arbitrarily singled out and implicated in existing conspiracies leading to reputational harm, boycotts, and harassment.

The ‘Corporate Complicity’ narrative Limbik has monitored and evaluated over the past year purports that large corporations, such as Walmart, Amazon, and Disney, are trafficking children. This narrative is intricately linked with other Deep State conspiracy theories such as QAnon that propagate the belief that global elites are operating a covert child sex trafficking ring. In some variations of this narrative, the company’s normal service provision is merely a front for their child trafficking activities. One notable case of the interlacement of ‘Corporate Complicity’ and QAnon involves the furniture and home goods store Wayfair: After a QAnon conspiracist claimed the high prices for storage cabinets with female names were an indication of the company's role in trafficking, QAnon adherents tried to cross-list the furniture names to the names of missing children in the U.S.

Potential for Impact

The Potential for Impact (PFI) of “Corporate Complicity” was evaluated weekly by Limbik from June 2021 to June 2022. As a reminder, PFI is a predictive metric and, in this case, assesses how “Corporate Complicity” will resonate with the U.S. adult population.

  • The average PFI, high narrative PFI, and low narrative PFI lines all refer to other human trafficking-related MDM narratives Limbik is evaluating.

  • If the PFI for a particular narrative is greater than 100, this means the narrative has an increased likelihood of resonating with the U.S. adult population (and therefore poses a higher risk). If the PFI for a particular narrative is less than 100, the narrative has a lower likelihood of resonating with the U.S. adult population (and therefore poses a manageable risk).

  • The PFI of “Corporate Complicity” has oscillated over the monitoring period. However, since the invasion of Ukraine, the “Corporate Complicity” narrative has registered a higher than average PFI week-over-week. This is partly driven by QAnon adherents that have tried to tie Ukrainian companies to nefarious activities by Western elites. They purport these companies serve as a front for child sex trafficking by the ‘Deep State’.

  • Another important development that has contributed to the increased “Corporate Complicity” PFI are child trafficking sting operations that include employees of corporations already suspected by QAnon adherents of being part of the ‘Cabal’. The individual cases are leveraged as proof of their belief in the “Corporate Complicity” narrative.

Source(s): Twitter, Facebook

Foreign Influence

To understand whether the “Corporate Complicity” narrative is being influenced by actors outside the United States, Limbik uses a Foreign Influence (FI) model to determine what percentage of related artifacts can be attributed to known or likely foreign actors throughout the June 2021 to June 2022 monitoring periods. FI for the “Corporate Complicity” narrative has significantly increased since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The artifacts coming from outside the U.S. did not have a geographic focus during this time, indicating the global reach of the narrative and the QAnon conspiracy more broadly.

As laid out previously in the Limbik Deep Dive Series, the effects of human trafficking MDM on the phenomenon itself are disastrous. The corporate dimension of this narrative demonstrates that unconnected entities can arbitrarily become targets of disinformation without necessarily having put out a statement that could bring about consumer backlash. The impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on PFI and FI further demonstrates that this narrative is bent to fit whatever news developments take place. The staying power of such malleable narrative is clear.

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