What Is Frazzledrip? Fake Hillary Clinton Video Builds on Pizzagate Conspiracy Theory

While testifying before Congress, Google CEO Sundar Pichai was pushed to address the consequences of YouTube promoting right-wing conspiracy theories by Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who confronted Pichai with a bizarre conspiracy theory, closely related to Pizzagate, known as "Frazzledrip."

The Frazzledrip conspiracy theory is primarily inspired by a video that doesn't exist.

According to believers, a dark web snuff film depicts Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and longtime aide Huma Abedin sexually assaulting and murdering a young girl. They also cut off and wear the girl's face.

"Do you know what Frazzledrip is?" Raskin asked, then quoted from a Washington Post article about the rampant conspiracy theory videos flooding YouTube.

"Politicians, celebrities and other lead figures were sexually abusing or consuming the remains of children, often in Satanic rituals," Rankin said, describing the supposed contents of the Frazzledrip video. "The claims echo and often cite the discredited Pizzagate conspiracy, which two years ago led to a man firing shots into a Northwest Washington, D.C. pizzeria in search of children he believed were being held as sex slaves by Democratic party leaders."

"We are constantly undertaking efforts to deal with misinformation," Pichai said, responding to Frazzledrip. "We are looking to do more."

Originally propagated on Facebook in April, Frazzledrip began with images purported to be from the video, including a blurry, manipulated photo of a woman in a mask, often described as Abedin wearing the "filleted" child's face. The image is instead from the website of a popular D.C.-area restaurant and does not depict Abedin.

An image attributed to the Frazzledrip video alongside the same image, taken from the website for a popular supper club. Snopes

Later that month, a website trafficking in made-up and sensationalized stories in support of right-wing policies—conspiracy theories regarding gun control, Muslims and President Donald Trump's fictional war with the Deep State—embellished the Frazzledrip story, inventing details like the discovery of the video on the laptop of Abedin's husband, disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, and a supposed motive: harvesting adrenochrome for Satanic rituals. Adrenochrome is a real chemical, a epinephrine derivative with a rich history in conspiracy circles, mostly thanks to its appearance in the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

"There's only one source for this stuff—the adrenaline gland from a living human body!" Johnny Depp says in the movie. This wholly fictional description has since been repeated in numerous conspiracy theories.

While Frazzledrip got its start on Facebook and Twitter, it soon found a more permanent home among YouTube conspiracy theorists. The nature of YouTube's recommendation system often results in conspiracy theory videos appearing alongside legitimate news items. Browsing YouTube spits out Pizzagate and Frazzledrip videos in response to even innocuous search terms, such as "HRC," "HRC video," "Huma" and "frazzle." In turn, those videos funnel viewers to 9/11 Truth and QAnon videos.

"YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century," techno-sociologist and author of Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest Zeynep Tufekci wrote in an editorial for The New York Times. "What we are witnessing is the computational exploitation of a natural human desire: to look 'behind the curtain' … YouTube leads viewers down a rabbit hole of extremism, while Google racks up the ad sales."

Similar to QAnon, Frazzledrip is a metastasization of the Pizzagate conspiracy, which claimed, without evidence, a cabal of Democratic politicians trafficked and sexually abused children out of D.C. pizzeria Comet Ping Pong. As with Pizzagate, Frazzledrip relies in part on adherents taking transgressive art literally, with both conspiracy theories conflating the work of performance artist Marina Abramovic for Satanic ritual. Another image widely claimed to be from the Frazzledrip video depicts a projection on the wall of Comet Ping Pong during a public concert.

While YouTube claims to have taken measures to curb conspiracy theory videos, the nature of its automated recommendations, combined with a clear profit motive, pose major obstacles to substantial reform. For now, YouTube remains a key component of online conspiracy theorizing, funneling everyday users to propaganda produced by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and alt-right hoaxers.