FACTS about QAnon: What it is, Who is “Q”, Who believes, How spread online
A supporter holds a QAnon sign as U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a campaign rally at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S., August 2, 2018. Photo: Reuters/Leah Millis

Update QAnon

Over the last few months, we’ve been hearing a lot about right-wing conspiracy groups. One – called “QAnon” – is pushing the idea that former President Donald Trump will return to power.

The conspiracy group was started by one anonymous user online named “Q.”

Their core belief? That a group of Satan-worshipping elites who run a child sex ring control politics and run the country.

They believed that on Jan. 20, Trump would destroy powerful child abusers and be sworn in for a second term. That, of course, didn’t happen.

Now they believe that Thursday, March 4, Trump would take back control of the executive branch from President Joe Biden.

Why March 4?

Because it was the date of our nation’s Inauguration Day from 1793 to 1933.

Who gets sucked into this kind of conspiracy theory? Federal agents say some believers took part in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 and even wore QAnon gear.

Then there’s Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia, who has promoted QAnon conspiracies online.

QAnon is telling followers that the media promoted March 4 and the real date for Trump’s return is March 20.

*Read More: Reasons why QAnon believes Trump’s back on March 4

Facts about and What is QAnon?

QAnon is a far right-wing, loosely organized network and community of believers who embrace a range of unsubstantiated beliefs. These views center on the idea that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles—mainly consisting of what they see as elitist Democrats, politicians, journalists, entertainment moguls, and other institutional figures—have long controlled much of the so-called deep state government, which they say seeks to undermine President Trump, mostly with aid of media and entertainment outlets, according to the Wall Street Journal.

What is the QAnon conspiracy theory?

QAnon conspiracy theory alleges that there is a battle between good and evil in which the Republican Mr. Trump is allied with the former. QAnon followers are awaiting two major events: the Storm and the Great Awakening. The Storm is the mass arrest of people in high-power positions who will face a long-awaited reckoning. The Great Awakening involves a single event in which everyone will attain the epiphany that QAnon's theory was accurate the whole time. This realization will allow society to enter the age of utopia.

Who is “Q”?

FACTS about QAnon: What it is, Who is “Q”, Who believes, How spread online
Photo: News.sky.com

Followers believe that “Q” is a high-ranking government insider, presumably with a military or intelligence background, committed to exposing the hidden truth of what they see as an international bureaucracy scheming against Mr. Trump and his supporters. Some followers believe that “Q” often sends coded signals about his or her existence, using the number 17—the letter Q’s placement in the alphabet. Online posts surrounding QAnon conspiracy theories have often described “Q” as a patriot or saint.

What role did QAnon and its adherents play in the storming of the Capitol?

QAnon and its adherents have become instrumental in Mr. Trump’s drive to overturn the November election, which he lost decisively. In November, Sidney Powell, a former federal prosecutor who was then representing Mr. Trump, said on Fox Business that she would “release the Kraken,” a reference to a powerful mythical beast, by making public evidence of widespread voter fraud. Neither Ms. Powell nor any of Mr. Trump’s supporters have done so, but QAnon supporters adopted the phrase as a rallying cry.

QAnon apparel was prevalent throughout the crowd at the Capitol and surrounding it. During the storming of the Capitol, one of the first people up the stairs leading to the Senate chamber was a man who wore a QAnon T-shirt.

QAnon adherent Jacob Anthony Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, was among the most visible members of the throng that breached the Capitol, reaching the Senate chamber and briefly occupying the seat just vacated by Vice President Mike Pence, according to photographs taken at the scene. Mr. Chansley was shirtless and wearing his trademark fur hat and bison horns, his tattoos on prominent display.

An Arizona native, Mr. Chansley has espoused QAnon views outside the Arizona Capitol since at least 2019, according to the Arizona Republic newspaper. He has often carried a battered sign reading: “Q sent me.”

“The snowball has been rolling and it’s only getting bigger,” Mr. Chansley told the newspaper in February outside a Trump rally in Phoenix. “We’re the mainstream now.”

FACTS about QAnon: What it is, Who is “Q”, Who believes, How spread online

QAnon adherent Jake Angeli reached the Senate chamber inside the Capitol on Wednesday.

Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Trump validated theories

The year 2020 was also Trump finally gave QAnon what it always wanted: respect. As Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher and host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast recently wrote: “Over the past few months …Trump has recognized the QAnon community in a way its followers could have only fantasized about when I began tracking the movement’s growth over two years ago.”

Trump, lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, and QAnon “rising star” Ron Watkins have all been actively inflaming QAnon apocalyptic and anti-establishment desires by promoting voter fraud conspiracy theories.

Doubts about the validity of the election have been circulating in far-right as well as QAnon circles. Last October, I wrote that if there were delays or other complications in the final result of the presidential contest, it would likely feed into a pre-existing belief in the invalidity of the election — and foster a chaotic environment that could lead to violence.

How has QAnon spread online?

The ‘Q’ posts, which started in 2017 on the message board 4chan, are now posted on 8kun, a rebranded version of the shuttered web board 8chan. QAnon has been amplified on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, the video streaming service of Alphabet Inc’s Google, Reuters reported.

Media investigations have shown that social media recommendation algorithms can drive people who show an interest in conspiracy theories towards more material.

FACTS about QAnon: What it is, Who is “Q”, Who believes, How spread online
QAnon followers started to appear at Donald Trump rallies Photo: News.sky.com

A report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) found that the number of users engaging in discussion of QAnon on Twitter and Facebook has surged this year, with the membership of QAnon groups on Facebook growing 120 percent in March.

Researchers say that Russian government-supported organizations are playing a small but increasing role in amplifying the conspiracy theories.

QAnon backers helped to organize real-life protests against child trafficking in August and were involved in a pro-police demonstration in Portland, Oregon.

QAnon also looks poised to gain a toehold in the U.S. House of Representatives, with at least one Republican candidate who espouses its beliefs on track to win in the November elections.

What are social platforms doing about it?

FACTS about QAnon: What it is, Who is “Q”, Who believes, How spread online
There are dozens of Facebook Groups dedicated to QAnon Photo: News.sky.com

Twitter in July said it would stop recommending QAnon content and accounts in a crackdown it expected would affect about 150,000 accounts. It also said it would block QAnon URLs and permanently suspend QAnon accounts coordinating abuse or violating its rules.

Facebook in August removed nearly 800 QAnon groups for posts celebrating violence, showing intent to use weapons, or attracting followers with patterns of violent behavior. It has also imposed restrictions on the remaining 1,950 public and private QAnon groups that it found. Facebook said it plans to ban ads that promote or reference QAnon, and it does not allow QAnon pages to run commerce shops.

A spokeswoman for the short-form video app TikTok said QAnon content “frequently contains disinformation and hate speech” and that it has blocked dozens of QAnon hashtags.

A Reddit spokeswoman told Reuters the site has removed QAnon communities that repeatedly violated its rules since 2018 when it took down forums such as r/greatawakening.

FACTS about QAnon: What it is, Who is “Q”, Who believes, How spread online
YouTube displays 'context' alongside searches for QAnon Photo: News.sky.com

A YouTube spokeswoman said it has removed tens of thousands of Q-related videos and terminated hundreds of Q-related channels for violating its rules since updating its hate speech policy in June 2019.

YouTube also said it reduces its recommendations of certain QAnon videos that “could misinform users in harmful ways.” It does not have a specific ban on monetizing QAnon content. ISD researchers found that about 20 percent of all QAnon-related Facebook posts contained YouTube links.

E-commerce site Etsy said it was removing all QAnon merchandise from its marketplace. A review of Amazon.com Inc and Ebay Inc showed sellers listing QAnon-branded items including books, face masks, T-shirts, and hats.

Amazon and Ebay did not immediately respond to questions about whether they were taking specific actions against QAnon products.

Did the FBI really describe them as a domestic terror threat?

They did.

An intelligence bulletin from an FBI field office in Phoenix, published by Yahoo News, specifically mentions QAnon and other "conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists" as a domestic terror threat.

It added that the risks posed by these extremists were likely to grow during the 2020 presidential election cycle.

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