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What is QAnon? Here's how the pro-Trump conspiracy theory caught fire and spread through social media

According to the QAnon theory, John F Kennedy Jr is alive, the Rothschild family controls all the banks and children are being sold through the website of the furniture retailer Wayfair
UPDATED JAN 16, 2021
A young woman wearing a QAnon shirt at a protest against coronavirus-related restrictions and government policy on August 29, 2020, in Berlin, Germany (Getty Images)
A young woman wearing a QAnon shirt at a protest against coronavirus-related restrictions and government policy on August 29, 2020, in Berlin, Germany (Getty Images)

Twitter announced on Monday, January 11, that it has suspended "more than 70,000 accounts" linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory following the attack on the US Capitol by a mob of President Donald Trump's supporters. That's why we felt it's time we throw some light on what exactly is the QAnon theory.

During the protests that claimed five lives, after Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill on Wednesday, January 6, several prominent activists were spotted inside the building while others flew Q-themed banners inside and out. Daily Beast Reporter Will Sommer posted, "Plenty of QAnon supporters amid chaos at Congress. The rabbit denotes QAnon slogan 'follow the white rabbit'."


What is QAnon Theory?

“QAnon” is allegedly a baseless Internet conspiracy theory whose followers believe that a ring of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires run the world while engaging in pedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of these sexually abused children.

QAnon supporters also allegedly believe that Trump is pursuing a secret battle against this ring or cabal and its “deep state” contributors to expose these culprits and send them all to Guantánamo Bay.

There are many, many threads of the QAnon narrative, all as far-fetched and evidence-free as the rest, including narratives focussing on John F Kennedy Jr being alive (he isn’t), the Rothschild family controlling all the banks (they don’t) and children being sold through the website of the furniture retailer Wayfair (they aren’t).

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, George Soros, Bill Gates, Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, Chrissy Teigen and Pope Francis are just some of the people whom QAnon followers have cast as villains in these theories.

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QAnon has also seeped into the offline world, with some followers charged with violent crimes, including one QAnon follower, 24-years-old Anthony Comello, who murdered a mafia boss, Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali, in New York last year and another who was arrested in April and accused of threatening to kill President-elect Joe Biden. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned that QAnon poses a potential domestic terror threat.

How did this all start?

It all started in October 2017, after a post appeared on 4chan, the notoriously toxic message board, from an anonymous account calling itself “Q Clearance Patriot”. This poster, who became known simply as “Q”, claimed to be a high-ranking intelligence officer with access to classified information about Trump’s war against the global cabal.

Q predicted that this conflict would soon end in “The Storm”, an appointed time when Trump would finally unmask the cabal, punish its members for their crimes and restore America to greatness. These messages became known as "Q drops" or "breadcrumbs", often written in cryptic language peppered with slogans, pledges and pro-Trump themes.

Who is Q?

Q’s identity is still not known, although followers of the theory believe that there have been hints and speculation about it for years.

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Some people believe that a single Internet troll has been posting as Q the entire time. Others say that multiple people are involved in posting as Q or that Q’s identity has changed over time.

Why is it called ‘The Storm’?

It’s a reference to a cryptic remark Trump made during an October 2017 photo op. Posing alongside military generals, he said, “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

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QAnon disciples pointed to this moment as proof that Trump was sending coded messages about his intentions to break up the global cabal with the help of the military. 

What is the role of social networks in QAnon’s popularity?

Even though Q’s posts appear on fringe message boards, the QAnon phenomenon owes much of its fame to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many other social networking websites which have amplified QAnon messages and recommended QAnon groups and pages to new people through their algorithms.

Supporters of President Donald Trump hold up their phones with messages referring to the QAnon conspiracy theory at a campaign rally at Las Vegas Convention Center on February 21, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada (Getty Images)

In recent months, many leading social networks have taken steps to ban QAnon content from their services, citing the theory’s potential for offline harm. Before the huge step was taken by Twitter on December 11, in which it removed around 70,000 Twitter accounts, Facebook and YouTube both announced wide-ranging QAnon bans and removed thousands of accounts, pages and channels from their platforms in October 2020.

Several smaller platforms, such as Etsy, Pinterest and Discord, have also taken steps to limit QAnon’s influence. Even though there are several claims regarding this theory, there isn't enough proof that it holds any truth.

These remarks were made by third-person and individual organizations, MEAWW cannot confirm them independently nor does it support these claims.