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Over the past several years, a set of conspiracy theories tied to a fictional character named "Q" have leapt from the anonymous 4chan online message boards to the slogans chanted and signs held by President Trump's supporters at campaign rallies.
The various theories tied to "Q" and "QAnon" are voluminous, but the general idea is that elites, Democratic Party leaders, and the so-called "Deep State" are all conspiring on a variety of nefarious acts, from pedophilia to mind control.
"Q" – supposedly a secret person or persons with access to confidential information – is the origin of the conspiracies, which largely serve to present President Trump in a flattering light.
On Tuesday night, Twitter announced action against QAnon-related content on its platform. The social media company said it banned over 7,000 accounts tied to the conspiracy theory, among other moderation efforts.
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For years, supporters of QAnon have peddled false conspiracy theories online, based in the belief that elites, Democratic Party leaders, and the so-called "Deep State" are all conspiring on a variety of nefarious acts, from pedophilia to mind control.
Many people quickly dismiss these provably false theories. But for adherents of "Q" — who are also largely supporters of President Donald Trump — these conspiracies are core to an increasingly popular set of beliefs.
Here's everything we know about QAnon:QAnon is relatively young in the realm of conspiracy theories: It's said to have originated in 2017 on the 4chan message boards, where anonymity is a standard.
In October 2017, a 4chan forum post attributed to "Q Clearance Patriot" posted several messages in the politics section. The name was a direct reference to the Department of Energy's highest level of security clearance, which comes with access to nuclear weapons – an intentionally specific reference intended to convey the writer's sincerity.
The idea was simple: A person, or persons, who identified as "Q," with deep access to the highest levels of the federal government, was committed to revealing the hidden truth.
That includes claims that former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are Satanists involved in a global pedophilia ring, and that President Trump has been secretly planning a counter-coup against members of the so-called "deep state" (the term often used to describe career public officials), among other things.
What are the core beliefs of QAnon? They're not far off from already existing conspiracy theories about the Illuminati.
The foundational belief of QAnon supporters is that the world is being controlled by a cabal of Hollywood elites and political operatives, and that control extends beyond world governments to culture, science, and pretty much everything else. It's very similar to the Illuminati conspiracy theory.
The election of Donald Trump thwarted that group of elites from achieving total world control, QAnon believers say.
From that logic comes the idea that Trump, along with several unnamed "deep state" operatives, has been planning a secret counter-coup. The same logic leads to the conspiracy theory that an event known as "The Storm" is coming, where various cabal members will be rounded up and arrested, thus resulting in a military takeover of the US that would bring a state of utopia.
Some QAnon loyalists believe that the secret group is involved in a vast pedophilia ring (a spinoff of the "Pizzagate" conspiracy), some believe that the elites involved are Satanists, and some believe both.
There is no evidence to support any of the claims within these conspiracy theories.
QAnon believers get a big boost from the president, who often retweets QAnon accounts.
President Trump has amplified tweets from QAnon supporter accounts "at least 185 times via at least 114 individual accounts, some of them more than once," according to a Media Matters analysis. In at least one case, in December 2019, the president retweeted a pro-Trump video with direct references to the QAnon conspiracy movement.
Moreover, several members of Trump's team have given far more explicit nods to the conspiracy theorist group.
President Trump's son and presidential campaign surrogate, Eric Trump, used a primary QAnon hashtag in an image posted to his Instagram feed before a Trump 2020 campaign event last month:
Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/1274420389448421376?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw The president's middle son, a main campaign surrogate, posting a QAnon message on Instagram. pic.twitter.com/bT11puXuDs
The post has since been removed from his Instagram feed.
The hashtag in question was "#WWG1WGA," which stands for the QAnon slogan "Where we go one, we go all."
QAnon believers have become increasingly visible at Trump rallies and and at anti-coronavirus lockdown protests
At the core of the various QAnon conspiracy theories is a pro-Trump agenda, and QAnon supporters are increasingly visible at Trump 2020 campaign rallies and anti-coronavirus lockdown protests.
Support for the president is threaded throughout various QAnon theories, including one that Hollywood elites and prominent members of the Democratic Party are involved in a secret pedophilia ring, and another about a secret actor (or actors) from the "deep state" feeding confidential information to users on a notoriously hate-filled anonymous forum.
Trump is also no stranger to conspiracy theories himself: For years, he was a proponent of the false conspiracy theory that former president Barack Obama wasn't born in the US (he was).
Social media services, including both Facebook and Twitter, have begun removing QAnon-related content.
On Tuesday night, Twitter announced plans to curb QAnon accounts engaging in "behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm."
To that end, Twitter said it banned over 7,000 accounts, and is planning continued action on 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."
Similarly, Facebook announced similar actions back in May, and used similar language to Twitter.
"The people behind this activity used fake accounts — some of which had already been detected and disabled by our automated systems — to create fictitious personas, like and comment on their own content making it appear more popular than it is, manage Pages and Groups, and evade detection and enforcement," Facebook said at the time.
In other words: Neither Facebook nor Twitter has banned QAnon accounts for spreading false conspiracy theories, but for violating terms of service rules about using fake accounts.
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