In the age of YouTube and Facebook, of course, it's easy for political officials to unknowingly spread aspects of QAnon and similar conspiracy theories.
In December, Washington state Rep. Jenny Graham, a Republican in the 6th District, posted a Facebook link to an article at a site called "Vaccine Impact" about the weaknesses of the Pertussis vaccine.
But the article not only perpetuates a long-since-disproven link between vaccines and autism, the "Vaccine Impact" site has since become an unabashed QAnon conspiracy site, perpetuating bizarre claims about globalist pedophiles harvesting "children's blood just before they are murdered as a sacrifice to Satan."
In another December Facebook post, Graham wrote that the "appetite to have sex with children as young as infants is a growing business" and linked to a blog post claiming that makes the dubious claim that "a significant portion" of 460,000 missing children a year "end up in sex dungeons to be exploited and repeatedly raped by ... demons."
Literal demons, the blogger explains in another post — or more specifically Reptilian-human hybrids put into positions of power by evil extra-dimensional beings.
Graham says she was unaware of the weirder views on those sites, but didn't express regret about sharing those links.
"The trafficking is real, and sadly enough, so is the occult situation," she says, explaining that she knew someone in a cult. She says it's her job to ask tough questions and engage on important issues.
"I'm not telling people to think one way or another about something," says Graham, whose district covers parts of north Spokane, the South Hill and West Plains. "These are important issues that I like to get feedback on from people in my district."
New York Times tech columnist Charlie Warzel blames the way that Facebook and YouTube algorithms are built for how quickly conspiracy theories spread.
"Our information ecosystem makes it very easy to slide down these rabbit holes," Warzel says. "I think people are less inoculated to this stuff than they think."
But even as sites like Facebook have begun to crack down on conspiracy theories and falsehoods, they've received pushback from figures like Graham.
In June, Facebook flagged a post Graham shared as false for incorrectly suggesting that coronavirus expert Anthony Fauci was in favor of rushing a vaccine. And in August, Graham objected to Facebook flagging a video as incorrect that argued that masks were ineffective and that the drug hydroxychloroquine cured coronavirus.
But Graham argues that it's not a settled issue and that Facebook's fact-checkers are overstepping their bounds.
"Who's fact checking the fact checkers?" Graham wrote on Facebook, urging Congress to "hold these companies accountable" and "de-weaponize social media platforms."
But Tom McGarry, Graham's opponent this year, argues that Graham has been spreading misinformation online.
"I think that's incredibly irresponsible," he says, "And in some cases, especially in the case of a pandemic, it can be deadly." ♦