“Rudderless” QAnon may reinvent itself after US election, warn experts

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For the 460,000 Twitter followers of Praying Medic, probably the most prolific posters of the QAnon conspiracy, the US election shouldn’t be over. His timeline is peppered with claims of electoral fraud, alongside retweets from President Donald Trump.

“Anybody who thinks Donald Trump has no probability of profitable reelection hasn’t thought by all of the contingencies to their logical or probably finish,” Praying Medic stated in a tweet earlier this month. “Biden’s solely hope of profitable was convincing Trump to concede. He failed.”

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

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

However in accordance with Joe Ondrak, senior researcher at counter-misinformation group 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 submit from the pseudonymous “Q” in December.

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

The US election end result destabilized QAnon as a result of one in all 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,” stated Vegas Tenold, an investigative researcher on the Anti-Defamation League’s Heart on Extremism.

“A number 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 stated.

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

However the enchantment 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 accordance with information from SensorTower.

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

Consultants warn, nevertheless, that QAnon’s means to repeatedly reinvent itself signifies that such setbacks could solely be non permanent. President Trump’s election defeat, for instance, was unlikely to shake the religion of devoted QAnon believers, stated Chine Labbe, European managing editor at counter-misinformation group NewsGuard.

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

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

In the meantime, a core of QAnon influencers who’ve constructed careers off the again of the conspiracy idea—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,” stated 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.

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

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

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

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