Not long after Quaden Bayles became the virally popular star of an anti-bullying campaign, Twitter’s trending topics boosted a conspiracy theory under “He’s 18,” linked to tweets alleging the nine-year-old boy was a much older “influencer”:
As “He’s 18” trended on Twitter, a Reddit user shared a quickly-deleted thread to the subreddit r/IAmATotalPieceOfShit, accusing the boy of having “scammed the entire internet”:
Although the post was quickly removed, brutal and angry comments continued rolling in, mocking the boy’s appearance and referencing a supposed Instagram account that was “deleted.” The same Instagram account was seen in the second tweet embedded above, and it had not been deleted as of the afternoon of February 21 2020.
Nothing on that Instagram page suggested Quaden Bayles was 18, and it was not clear who owned the account. Again, neither the account nor its posts were deleted.
The second of the two posts above included a caption:
Happy 18th ma mah ❤️
Also on February 21 2020, the New York Post published an article which appeared to validate the conspiracy theory:
Some Twitter users are questioning whether a dwarf who appeared in a now-viral video sobbing that he’s the 9-year-old victim of bullies is nothing but a teenage prankster, although other postings appear to back up his heartbreaking tale.
Quaden Bayles — who gained the sympathy of legions of supporters, including actor and fellow Aussie Hugh Jackman — is really 18 and “scammed everybody,” tweeted Jasmein Dowe on Friday, according to several Twitter users who reposted the accusation with some photos of an adult-looking Bayles from his Instagram page. Dowe’s Twitter account appeared to have been taken down later [on February 21 2020].
As indicated later in the same article, Quaden Bayles was profiled in 2016, when he was five years old, by Today.com. In an appended image, the child is missing baby teeth. His mother referenced his age:
“Quaden now proudly accepts that he’s got dwarfism, because Buddy’s given him that reason to think that it’s cool,” said his mom, Yarraka Bayles. “So he tells everyone, ‘My dog has dwarfism like me,’ and it’s the first time we’ve ever, in Quaden’s five years of life, heard him say the word, because we are not allowed to say dwarfism or achondroplasia.”
Quaden Bayles was also featured on Living Black in Australia in 2015. In that clip, he is described as four years old, and he is shown engaging in toddler-age activities:
Living Black presents a special report on Murri boy, Quaden Bayles, who suffers from a condition that affects 1 in every 25,000 people – Achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism.
When Quaden was three days old, his mother Yarraka and the family were packing up their hospital room to go home.
Doctors told her about his condition but she refused to believe it. It took years before she came to terms with the news.
Now, at four [years] old [in 2015], Quaden is only 65cm.
During a routine check-up in early April , an MRI scan revealed his case had deteriorated and doctors decided to keep him in hospital.
Further back still — in 2012 — a baby photograph of the child was shared by what appeared to be family members on Facebook. In a second 2015 video, Quaden Bayles was also shown and identified at age four:
Twitter’s “He’s 18” trend appeared to be proliferating without oversight, allowing rumors that Quaden Bayles was not nine years old to spread like wildfire, seemingly based on an Instagram account that had been wrongly described as deleted. However, numerous press accounts covered the child’s life before his February 2020 viral fame, and the Instagram account had not actually been removed.