Simply put, QAnon is a surprisingly popular hoax based on cryptic messages from an individual or group claiming to have inside knowledge of the Trump administration’s secret fight against an evil global cabal.
Supporters of QAnon (who include at least one Republican candidate for the US Senate) often disagree over very important details of the plot they believe to be taking place.
What details do they agree on?
In general, they all believe that Donald Trump fights against a secret and evil global cabal, whose members include the former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and billionaire liberal philanthropist George Soros, both of whom have been figures of hatred for the American political right for many years.
Supporters believe that a person or group within the administration – the eponymous “Q” – is posting coded messages online to inform Mr. Trump’s supporters of this secret war and prepare them for an impending event in which the president overthrows the evil cabal and imprisons its members.
Isn’t that the plot of a bad young adult fiction novel?
It may sound like it, but the Q-proclaimed banners are very popular at Mr. Trump’s re-election rallies and at campaign events for other Republicans who have expressed their support for him.
This is a much bigger problem than the substance of conspiracy theories might lead you to believe.
Q Has he already provided proof of claims?
Not only is there no proof, but many of the claims made by Q – whether they were predictions about particular events on particular dates or factual accusations – have turned out to be false.
But rather than losing supporters as a result of these incidents, Q explained that the predictions and claims that did not come to fruition were in fact an intentional error and a necessary part of their cryptic revelations.
Psychologically, this only reinforces the belief of partisans in the plot, Professor Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol explained to Vox, encouraging supporters to internalize any evidence that contradicts Q’s claims simply as evidence of the conspiracy against him.
After all, people believe in conspiracy theories because they serve psychological needs – not because they present compelling rational arguments, as Professor Karen Douglas told Sky News.
Aside from the plot – where does Q post these posts?
Posts were originally published on 4chan, and are now moved to 8chan – Internet forums which are important hubs for the far right because of their lack of moderation of content.
Now, on marginal and mainstream social media platforms, there is a large community of people who express a belief in the conspiracy and come together to collectively interpret Q’s cryptic posts.
Messages and videos dealing with these messages and puzzles, whether they offer apocryphal interpretations or comments on the cabal, can regularly reach hundreds of thousands of views.
How are social media companies responding?
Reddit banned the / r / QAnon community for inciting harassment.
Twitter announced that it was taking action against “so-called QAnon activity” on the grounds that it could cause damage offline, and said more than 7,000 accounts involved in QAnon had been removed from the platform. for violating company rules against spam, manipulation, and prohibiting evasion.
Twitter added that it would no longer allow content and accounts associated with QAnon to appear in its trending section or recommendations, and that URLs associated with it could no longer be shared on the platform.
QAnon videos have also been demoted on YouTube and searches for the term are given a box providing context on the movement – in this case, the Wikipedia article – similar to how coronavirus videos receive directed pop-up boxes. to national health authorities.
Despite the downgrade, YouTube remains a popular platform for accounts discussing cryptic messages – some of which regularly reach hundreds of thousands of viewers with every video.
There are dozens and potentially hundreds of QAnon groups on Facebook, to which the platform does not apply any overt moderation in the style of other platforms.
Some of these groups are very active, with tens of thousands of members and thousands of posts every day.
Is Donald Trump aware of this?
Supporters believe so, and point out that he retweeted several accounts involved in spreading the QAnon message – although there is significant evidence that the president does not check the messages he retweets much.
At a rally for Mr. Trump in Cincinnati last August, a man warming up the chants used a QAnon motto “where we go one, we all go” to conclude his speech, though he later denied that it was a reference to the conspiracy theory.
Did the FBI really describe them as a domestic terrorist threat?
They did it.
An intelligence bulletin from an FBI field office in Phoenix, published by Yahoo News, specifically mentions QAnon and other “domestic extremists with a conspiracy theory” as a domestic terrorist threat.
He added that the risks posed by these extremists were likely to increase during the 2020 presidential election cycle.