Ground Report, New Delhi: Two separate teams of forensic linguistics using Machine Learning claimed to have discovered the origins of the QAnon conspiracy movement. Two teams of researchers, one from the Swiss startup Orphanalytics, and another from French computational linguistics Florian Cafiero and Jean-Baptiste Camps used artificial intelligence and linguistics analysis software to study texts containing more than 100,000 words written by Q, an anonymous internet figure claiming to be a highly placed military-political insider.
Their results back up what researchers and journalists have long believed about the people behind the conspiracy leader: that South African software developer Paul Furber and message board operator (now congressional candidate) Ron Watkins are most likely the men behind Q. So far, both men have denied being Q.
What is QAnon?
QAnon is the name of a far-right conspiracy theory that believes there is a deep state plot, slowly being exposed online by an anonymous leader named Q. They believe that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping paedophiles and President Trump is waging a secret war against elite paedophiles in govt, business and the media. QAnon followers believe that this cabal includes top Democrats like President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and George Soros, as well as a number of entertainers and Hollywood celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks and Ellen DeGeneres and religious figures including Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama. Many of them also believe that, in addition to molesting children, members of this group kill and eat their victims to extract a life-extending chemical called adrenochrome.
In October 2017, an anonymous user put a series of posts on the message board 4chan. The user signed off as "Q" and claimed to have a level of US security approval known as "Q clearance".
These messages became known as "Q drops" or "breadcrumbs", often written in cryptic language peppered with slogans, pledges and pro-Trump themes.
The amount of traffic to mainstream social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube has exploded since 2017, and indications are the numbers have gone up further during the coronavirus pandemic. Some QAnon supporters have been implicated in crimes that they claimed were inspired by their beliefs in the movement. These include: a man arrested in 2018 for plotting to plant a bomb in the Illinois Capitol Rotunda to make Americans aware of “Pizzagate”; a man arrested the same year for using an armoured car to block traffic on a bridge in Nevada; a woman arrested in Colorado for plotting an armed raid to kidnap her child whose custody she had lost; and a man charged with murdering a mafia figure in New York in 2019.
Some QAnon supporters hold anti-Semitic views. They include people who believe that Covid-19 is a hoax and that vaccines are controlled by Jewish people; deny the safety of vaccines; question the truth about the 9/11 attacks, and believe in alien landings.
The big social media companies subsequently tightened their rules about QAnon content and took down hundreds of Q-supporting accounts and videos. Q’s account has been quiet in recent months and has been posted only a few times since Trump’s election loss in November. Many QAnon believers hope that Q will return someday, although others maintain that the movement no longer needs Q as a central figure.
A report in The New York Times said QAnon has “already evolved from a fringe internet subculture into a mass movement” in the US and some of its theories are now “metastasizing” in Europe, including the Netherlands, the Balkans and Britain.