"Is it a Qoincidence?": A First Step Towards Understanding and Characterizing the QAnon Movement on Voat.co

by   Antonis Papasavva, et al.

Online fringe communities offer fertile grounds for users to seek and share paranoid ideas fueling suspicion of mainstream news, and outright conspiracy theories. Among these, the QAnon conspiracy theory has emerged in 2017 on 4chan, broadly supporting the idea that powerful politicians, aristocrats, and celebrities are closely engaged in a global pedophile ring. At the same time, governments are thought to be controlled by "puppet masters," as democratically elected officials serve as a fake showroom of democracy. In this paper, we provide an empirical exploratory analysis of the QAnon community on Voat.co, a Reddit-esque news aggregator, which has recently captured the interest of the press for its toxicity and for providing a platform to QAnon followers. More precisely, we analyze a large dataset from /v/GreatAwakening, the most popular QAnon-related subverse (the Voat equivalent of a subreddit) to characterize activity and user engagement. To further understand the discourse around QAnon, we study the most popular named entities mentioned in the posts, along with the most prominent topics of discussion, which focus on US politics, Donald Trump, and world events. We also use word2vec models to identify narratives around QAnon-specific keywords, and our graph visualization shows that some of QAnon-related ones are closely related to those from the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and "drops" by "Q." Finally, we analyze content toxicity, finding that discussions on /v/GreatAwakening are less toxic than in the broad Voat community.


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