What is QAnon? Conspiracy theory explained

Written by on July 22, 2020

SIGNS, t-shirts and banners with the letter Q have been donned at mass Trump rallies.

The bizarre new pro-Trump theory – known as QAnon – has managed to creep from the dark web into the mainstream.

Its supporters claim the President is communicating about “covert battles” between himself and the Deep State.

But what exactly is the theory, how big is its following and why has Twitter banned accounts linked with it? Here’s all you need to know about the mysterious movement.

A Trump supporter holds up a vast Q letter as he queued up to meet Trump at a rally in Pennsylvania
Getty Images – Getty

What is QAnon?

QAnon is a conspiracy theory that has taken hold among some Trump supporters.

According to NBC, the theory centres around an anonymous source, Q, who is trying to tell the world a secret – or multiple secrets.

These centre around unfounded allegations that Donald Trump and special counsel Robert Mueller are waging a secret battle against an alleged paedophile ring.

Supporters of the entirely unfounded theory believe that this ring is filled with celebrities and political elites, who have been covertly running the United States government for decades.

The theory gained more press coverage after a supporter held a vast letter Q at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania in August 2018.

Last month, an armed QAnon follower blocked traffic at the Hoover Dam, demanding the president release a report allegedly tying past presidents Obama and Clinton to the alleged sex ring.

The movement has crept from the dark web and into the real world
Getty Images – Getty

How did it start?

The bizarre theory originated in December 2016, when Edgar M.Welch entered a Washington D.C. pizza parlour and demanded to see a basement that did not exist.

According to NBC, he believed the restaurant was part of a child sex ring, a conspiracy known as Pizzagate.

The US news site reports that eight months later, a person going by “Q” posted for the first time on the anonymous politics message board 4chan, known to be a hotbed of conspiracy talk.

Since his first message, which involved Hilary Clinton, Q posted nearly 1,800 messages.

Followers try to decipher these nonsensical posts, with some of Trump’s most loyal supporters using them as a way to explain away any scandal the President might face.

Jared Holt, a research associate for Right Wing Watch who has followed the growth of QAnon, said: All of Trump’s mishaps on the world stage, his detractors in the media, his various scandals can all be effectively be framed within the QAnon lore as attacks that are coordinated against him because he’s ever closer to taking down a global conspiracy committing the most atrocious crimes that could be imagined, like Satanic child sex trafficking, and blood sacrifice.”

Most of the deadlines mentioned in Q’s posts have been and gone, with all shown to be unfounded.

How big is its following?

The bizarre theory has gained cult status among some followers, with Q-related products such as T-shirts, mugs and jewellery available.

Reddit’s QAnon community GreatAwakening had 50,000 subscribers by 2018 – just two years after the theory first surfaced.

And conservative celebrities such as Roseanne Barr and Curt Schilling have also referenced its existence, giving it yet more press coverage.

Despite originating in the darkest corners of the web, social media sites and online retailers bolstered its image with Amazon having to remove ‘Amazon’s Choice’ labels from linked merchandise in 2018.


Why has Twitter banned QAnon-linked accounts?

The social media giant announced on Tuesday it had banned 7,000 accounts linked with the conspiracy theory.

It added it removed 150,000 accounts from trends and search features in what is the first time a social media site has taken action against the misinformation.

Facebook is understood to be considering taking action too, according to the New York Times.

Twitter said it removed the accounts for violating policies on multiple accounts, coordinated abuse and attempting to evade suspensions.

A spokesperson said: “We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm. In line with this approach, this week we are taking further action on so-called ‘QAnon’ activity across the service.

“We will permanently suspend accounts Tweeting about these topics that we know are engaged in violations of our multi-account policy, coordinating abuse around individual victims, or are attempting to evade a previous suspension — something we’ve seen more of in recent weeks.”

The accounts has also become more aggressive and organised in attacking celebrities, NBC reported.

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