- A video showing a young boy with dwarfism crying about school bullies went viral on social media, prompting a GoFundMe campaign started by a comedian that has raised nearly $500,000.
- Conspiracies spread about the video, as people baselessly speculated that the boy, Quaden Bayles, was not actually 9 as he claimed, but a teen actor.
- While Instagram accounts for Bayles and his mother have disappeared, dozens of accounts pretending to be them have popped up on Twitter and Instagram, with some urging followers to click links that lead to scams or PayPal donations.
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Quaden Bayles, a nine-year-old boy with a form of dwarfism, went viral this week when his mother shared a video of him crying and mentioning suicide over bullying he faced at school. There was support from celebrities, a GoFundMe that raised nearly $500,000 to send the Australian family to Disneyland in California, and there were conspiracies.
Support turned dark when unfounded rumors circulated that Quaden was actually a teen actor pretending to be a child, though as Insider previously reported, those theories were baseless. Still, amid the controversy and virality across social-media platforms that included Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, Quaden and his mother, Yarraka Bayles, largely disappeared from social media.
His Instagram page, which was the subject of some of the theories about his age and wealth, was deleted. His mother’s account had also disappeared Saturday. The viral video of the nine-year-old was no longer public.
The only public-facing profile for Yarakka that remained as of Saturday was her Facebook account, though the account had been locked down and photo albums and posts that were once public were no longer visible.
In screenshots captured by the DailyMail, before his Instagram account was deleted, the nine-year-old warned his followers of a fake Twitter account being run in his name, asking for his followers to report the account. There were also several warnings about fake accounts on the Stand Tall 4 Dwarfism Facebook page, run by Quaden’s mother since October 2014.
When mother and son vanished from social media, accounts claiming to be them took their place
A search for Quaden Bayles on Twitter returned at least four accounts that claimed to be the subject of the viral video. All had joined in February 2020, and none had amassed any sort of significant following. The largest of the fake accounts had just over 100 followers.
The other accounts had even fewer followers.
Fake accounts impersonating Quaden were far more prolific on Instagram, with dozens of new Instagram accounts popping up that claimed to be the nine-year-old boy. One account, @quaden_bayles_, had posted some 13 times since Friday, taking photos from the since-deleted legitimate Instagram accounts for Quaden and his mother.
Some in the comments seemed to be aware that the profile was not linked to Quaden or his mother.
“This is not his page!!,” one person wrote.
“Fake a– page,” another said. “People have toooo[sic] much time on their hands!,” another wrote.
Still, not all people who commented on the photos seemed to realize the account was illegitimate. Many offered well wishes, like one person who said “you are such a strong handsome human being. KNOW you have touched so many.” Others debated the unfounded conspiracy theory that Quaden and his mother had been lying about his age, insisting he was a teenage actor.
“He’s a 19yr old actor scamming you all,” one wrote. “Wake up.”
Fake accounts solicited personal information and donations
Whoever was running that particular account, which did not answer a request for comment from Insider, directed users to support them by clicking the link in the account’s bio. The link takes users to a page that asks people to share personal information in order to receive a $100 gift card to McDonald’s or to Walmart. Another option asks users to provide their email to “unlock content” about whether President Trump should be impeached.
The link – obviously unconnected to the mother and son at the center of the viral video – solicits personal information like names and home addresses – with the promise of a gift card. The account has racked up some 1,778 followers.
Another page with more than 5,000 followers has made 23 posts since Bayles went viral on Friday. The bio on the Instagram account claims it is a “fans page,” though captions on the individual posts appear to be written to seem like Quaden is in control of the profile.
“There are false accounts giving information about me; Saying I’m 18 and I’m a scammer. That is a lie people. Anyone who posts something like that, please report,” a caption on one of the posts said.
That particular account wasn’t the only account to reference the fake Quaden accounts, seemingly in a bid to convince Instagram users that they were the real Quaden.
“Quaden does not post or use this account,” the caption of one post read. “I am his mom, do not waste money on a scam because it will make you feel used. I do not want any money.”
A request to speak with the owner of that account went unreturned. There were more than 50 accounts on Instagram that claimed to be Quaden that all seem to have appeared within the last 24 hours.
An account, @quaden_baylesofficial, that had 418 followers and first posted a photo on Saturday, solicited PayPal donations at a link in the profile’s bio.
Yarraka Bayles has not returned Insider’s request for comment, though on the Stand Tall 4 Dwarfism Facebook page, she said that was the only official account representing her and her son.
Neither Instagram nor Twitter returned an Insider request for more information about the fake accounts.