The Gospel According to Q: Understanding the QAnon Conspiracy from the Perspective of Canonical Information

by   Max Aliapoulios, et al.

The QAnon conspiracy theory claims that a cabal of (literally) bloodthirsty politicians and media personalities are engaged in a war to destroy society. By interpreting cryptic "drops" of information from an anonymous insider calling themselves Q, adherents of the conspiracy theory believe that they are being led by Donald Trump in an active fight against this cabal. QAnon has been covered extensively by the media, as its adherents have been involved in multiple violent acts, including the January 6th, 2021 seditious storming of the US Capitol building. Nevertheless, we still have relatively little understanding of how the theory evolved and was spread on the Web, and the role played in that by multiple platforms. To address this gap, in this paper we study QAnon from the perspective of "Q" themself. Specifically, we build a dataset of 4,949 canonical Q drops collected from six "aggregation sites," which curate and archive them from their original posting to anonymous and ephemeral image boards. We expose that these sites have a relatively low (overall) agreement, and thus at least some Q drops should probably be considered apocryphal. We then analyze the contents of the Q drops themselves, identifying topics of discussion, as well as finding statistically significant indications that drops were not authored by a single individual. Finally, we look at how posts on Reddit are used to disseminate Q drops to a wider audience. We find that dissemination was (originally) limited to a few sub-communities and that, while heavy-handed content moderation decisions have reduced the overall issue, the "gospel" of Q persists on Web communities.


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