Social media users have claimed that nine-year-old Quaden Bayles, who received widespread support and encouragement after his mother Yarakka posted a video of him crying for being bullied in school, is actually an 18-year-old actor.
A user on Facebook created a widely-shared post claiming that Bayles "has scammed everybody","has plenty of money" and has even deleted earlier social media postings where he had celebrated his 18th birthday. Photos of Bayles dressed in designer clothing and posing with friends at what is claimed to be his own birthday party were also circulated by other social media users.
Website news.com.au stated that the claims are "false", explaining that some users were sharing misleading information about Bayles by using his real social media postings and associating them with false captions. For example, the website explained Bayles was actually attending a friend's 18th birthday party as there was a sign with the birthday person's name in the photos.
The website further explained that in 2015, Bayles made an appearance on a TV show where his mother talked about him living with Achondroplasia, or dwarfism. He was four years old then and missing two front teeth.
Bayles was also featured in a TV programme where the focus was about his preparing for brain and spine surgery. The programme also stated that Bayles was four years old in 2015.
There was also an image of Bayles posing with a wine glass, which some users claimed further strengthens 'theories' that he is indeed an 18-year-old actor. However, news.com.au explained that the image was cropped to make it seem that Bayles was drinking alcohol. A full uncropped image would reveal that a bottle of sparkling fruit juice was next to Bayles, indicating that he was not drinking alcohol at all.
Popular fact-checking website Snopes has also marked such conspiracy theories – or claims about Bayles being an 18-year-old man pretending to be a nine-year-old child – as false.
Dailymail reported that Bayles' family has also warned about fake social media accounts of users pretending to be him just to take advantage of his situation and current viral fame.
Bayles became a viral media sensation last week when his mother shared an emotional video of him expressing suicidal thoughts as a result of being bullied due to his dwarfism. The video, which was first posted on Facebook, was meant to raise awareness about bullying and discrimination as Bayles is also of Aboriginal descent.
"We are losing way too many people because of bullying, because of discrimination, because of racism. There's so many factors of bullying. On top of that, being an Aboriginal boy with a disability, people don't understand that's a double-edged sword. There's racism and then there's discrimination because of the disability," Yarakka said in a BBC report.