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‘Rudderless’ QAnon may reinvent itself after US election, warn experts

Written by on December 26, 2020

For the 460,00zero Twitter followers of Praying Medic, one of the prolific posters of the QAnon conspiracy, the US election just isn’t over. His timeline is peppered with claims of electoral fraud, alongside retweets from President Donald Trump.

“Anybody who thinks Donald Trump has no likelihood of successful re-election hasn’t thought by all of the contingencies to their logical or possible finish,” Praying Medic mentioned in a tweet earlier this month. “Biden’s solely hope of successful was convincing Trump to concede. He failed.”

However regardless of his optimism, the rightwing principle has been dealt a heavy blow by Joe Biden’s US presidential victory. Consultants warn, nevertheless, that it might nonetheless solid a shadow over world politics for years to come back.

With its central perception that the US is embroiled in a long-running energy wrestle with a so-called “deep state”, QAnon gained mainstream traction during the election. It garnered endorsements from high-profile figures together with politicians and influencers.

However in keeping with Joe Ondrak, senior researcher at counter-misinformation organisation Logically, Mr Biden’s win has left the neighborhood largely “rudderless”. He added that there had been a notable drop-off in momentum on main social platforms since, and just one publish from the pseudonymous “Q” in December.

© Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

“It’s onerous to contemplate the [current] state of Q a hit,” he mentioned.

The US election consequence destabilised QAnon as a result of one among its central predictions was that Mr Trump would win a second time period. The motion has additionally been hampered by actions taken by social platforms to stamp out QAnon-related content material. Fb, as soon as a key hub for Q communities, is now “a desert”, mentioned Vegas Tenold, an investigative researcher on the Anti-Defamation League’s Middle on Extremism.

“Loads of [interpersonal] networks had been made [before August, when Facebook tightened its policy on QAnon] however the spreading of the message has to a big diploma been stopped,” he mentioned.

QAnon had discovered some current success on different platforms, mentioned Samantha North, director of counter-disinformation organisation North Cyber Analysis. Earlier this month, the chief government of the rightwing social community Gab described the conspiracy principle as a “decentralised new media community that surfaces, distributes, and fact-checks info in actual time”.

However the attraction of such “alt” websites seems to be restricted. Parler, the “free speech social media” platform that reached the highest of the US app obtain charts shortly after the election, has fallen out of the highest 300 on the Apple App Retailer, in keeping with information from SensorTower.

“I can’t actually envision somebody’s aunt or uncle occurring to [alt platforms],” mentioned Ms North. “Twitter and Fb will maintain on to the mainstream.”

Consultants warn, nevertheless, that QAnon’s capacity to repeatedly reinvent itself signifies that such setbacks might solely be momentary. President Trump’s election defeat, for instance, was unlikely to shake the religion of devoted QAnon believers, mentioned Chine Labbe, European managing editor at counter-misinformation organisation NewsGuard.

“There’s been a whole lot of predictions from the start, none of which have come to fruition. Hillary Clinton was alleged to have been arrested three years in the past . . . however this didn’t stop the motion from rising,” she added.

She additionally mentioned that the event and mutation of QAnon around the world stays a trigger for concern. Ms Labbe mentioned that one of many French QAnon web sites she had been monitoring had risen from 1,300th place for on-line engagement in late July to 293rd by late November.

Video: Is QAnon a game gone wrong? | FT Film

In the meantime, a core of QAnon influencers who’ve constructed careers off the again of the conspiracy principle — promoting merchandise reminiscent of well being dietary supplements and therapeutic rituals — are unlikely to desert their meal ticket. “[Q] is now so nebulous and rare of their posts [that] it truly is the tastemakers and influencers who’re QAnon now,” mentioned Mr Tenold.

A report final week from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and NewsGuard additionally discovered that even after Fb banned QAnon, private accounts with giant followings had been persevering with to advertise the conspiracy.

© Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Name/Getty

The 2020 US election marked a milestone for the motion, mentioned Ms Labbe, regardless of Mr Trump’s final defeat. “[This year] Q has entered Congress within the US,” she mentioned, referring to Marjorie Taylor Greene, a representative-elect from Georgia who has promoted QAnon conspiracy theories on Twitter.

Ms North mentioned that given the US president’s earlier promotion of QAnon, wherein he said that its adherents “love our country”, she might foresee the motion being invoked in future campaigns. “He [Mr Trump] can place himself as a resistance fighter in a means [in a 2024 presidential bid] . . . I can see [QAnon] being harnessed into this sort of effort.”

“It’s onerous to be optimistic as a result of politicians appear fairly glad to fan these flames,” mentioned Mr Tenold. “So long as it’s within the pursuits of politicians to recommend voter fraud and a cabal of paedophiles, I don’t assume that is going away.”

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