Weird History

Paedophiles ‘copying Pizzagate conspiracy theory’ to share child abuse

An activist says she has seen thousands of accounts using pizza emojis to find, sell and trade child abuse images (Picture: Getty/ Apple)

An online activist claims paedophiles are using emojis on Instagram to find, sell and trade pictures of child abuse amid fears a debunked conspiracy theory may have influenced genuine social media use.

India, who runs anti-child abuse page PDProtect, said she has been working with Instagram to remove ‘thousands’ of suspected paedophile accounts on the app. She noticed that many of the accounts were using references to cheese and pizza in their usernames and bios as a way of marking their interest in child abuse images.

The use of pizza symbols is reminiscent of the ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory which first emerged in the US during 2016. But India told her discoveries have had ‘absolutely nothing’ to do with the debunked theory.

She said: ‘I have seen thousands of accounts with these emojis, they come up all the time. Often the word pizza will be within their username, their bio will be full of pizza emojis, or “I love cheese pizza”, but their picture will be of a child.

‘They don’t necessarily share illicit things on their accounts, but they link elsewhere, or they post screenshots of filing systems and invite people to direct message them.

‘I’ve just sent a list of over 2,000 accounts to Instagram, not all of them pizza related, but with a fair number of them on there. They removed every single one in six plus days.’

The words ‘cheese pizza’ were first theorised to be paedophile code for ‘child pornography’ on 4chan during the Pizzagate controversy. It is not clear whether these Instagram accounts have been inspired by the conspiracy theory.

In screenshots of removed accounts seen by, several users describe themselves as CP ‘traders’ or ‘sellers’ with a series of pizza emojis, and provide Facebook and Telegram links in their bios.

India is working with Instagram to remove the accounts (Picture: @PD_Protect)

India said: ‘There are different types of accounts, some are very obvious, some post under the guise of sharing pictures of “the most beautiful children”, and then there are ones directing you elsewhere and “trading”.

‘I just want to spread awareness of what is happening. It has nothing to do with Pizzagate, it’s purely what I’ve seen. If you come across 150,000 accounts doing the same thing you pick up on a pattern.’

Undated handout photo issued by Vets Now of Max, a greedy Labrador who was rushed to hospital after scoffing his entire lead while his owners were not watching. PA Photo. Issue date: Tuesday September 15, 2020. Max the hungry hound made short work of the lead during a 15-minute car journey, leaving nothing but the metal end. See PA story ANIMALS Lead. Photo credit should read: Vets Now/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.Greedy labrador ate his entire lead during 15-minute car journey

Paedophiles are known to use coded language as a means of finding others like themselves on social media. In April, analysts at the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) revealed they had added 3,681 key words and phrases to their watch list, which members use to block searches for images and and videos of child abuse. The list was previously just 450 words long.

Many of the words added to the list appear to be normal search terms and are not always explicitly linked to child sexual abuse, the charity said. Those who use them know they have ‘double meanings’ or secret combinations which relate to the material they’re looking for.

Susie Hargreaves, CEO of the IWF, said: ‘These people have developed their own secret language over time to help them find and access criminal images of children being sexually abused without attracting the attention of their internet provider.

She says the emojis have ‘nothing to do with Pizzagate’ (Picture: Instagram)

‘These new additions to our keywords list represent a major breakthrough in stopping people finding this illegal material online and disrupting their access to images and videos that perpetuate children’s suffering and pain.’

Vaishnavi J, Head of Safety at Instagram, confirmed they are working with India and told the Telegraph the platform is ‘committed’ to removing any content that endangers children from their apps.

A 'tropical bird' found in the UK turned out to be a seagull dyed BLUE - and it has now been rescued by the RSPCA. See SWNS story SWBRgull; The bird was spotted wandering round a car park on shocked onlookers thought they'd seen a rare and tropical bird. They called the RSPCA who attended the scene in Carlisle, Cumbria, on Tuesday, September 8, but they soon realised the bird wasn't tropical at all. Instead it was a regular seagull that had been dyed electric blue, and was also struggling to fly. Graham Carter, animal welfare officer, said: ?I have been in this job for about 20 years and I have never seen anything like this! This bird was incredible.‘Tropical’ bird turns out to be a seagull someone dyed electric blue

She continued: ‘We remove accounts that share or solicit this type of content and report them to the police. We also use technology that’s constantly improving to find and remove known child exploitation imagery. We’ve been working with India to investigate and remove the accounts she’s identified and we’re grateful for her help.’ 

The Pizzagate conspiracy theory first emerged around the 2016 US election and has been completely disproved. It relates to a series of leaked emails to and from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta which mentioned the word ‘pizza’ and making plans at the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington.

Anonymous users on 4chan then began speculating that other food-related terms within the emails were referring to specific children or sexual words, despite a complete lack of supporting evidence.

An email about a fundraiser being held at the Comet Ping Pong was then interpreted as a secret conversation about a sex party. This sparked more conspiracy theories that the site practised Satanism and had an underground dungeon where victims were kept – despite the restaurant not even having a basement.

The theories soon found their way into public consciousness, and on December 4 in 2016, a man named Edgar Welch, 28, went to the pizzeria with a handgun after deciding to ‘self-investigate’. He fired three shots into the restaurant, but no one was harmed.

Welch was charged with one count of ‘interstate transportation of a firearm with intent to commit an offence’, and later two additional charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

James Alefantis, owner of the Comet Ping Pong, described Pizzagate as a ‘an insanely complicated, made-up, fictional lie-based story’ and ‘a coordinated political attack’.

The Pizzagate theory has recently reemerged online, in part due to numerous TikTok videos which share and discuss famous conspiracies.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at

For more stories like this, check our news page.  

What's your reaction?

In Love
Not Sure

You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *