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QAnon
QAnon (), or simply Q, is a disproven and discredited American far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles was running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotted against former U.S. president Donald Trump while he was in office. QAnon is commonly called a cult.QAnon commonly asserts that Trump has been planning a day of reckoning known as the "Storm", when thousands of members of the cabal will be arrested. QAnon supporters have accused many liberal Hollywood actors, Democratic politicians, and high-ranking government officials of being members of the cabal. They have also claimed that Trump feigned conspiracy with Russians to enlist Robert Mueller to join him in exposing the sex trafficking ring and preventing a coup d'état by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros. The QAnon conspiracy theories have been amplified by Russian state-backed troll accounts on social media, as well as Russian state-backed traditional media.Although preceded by similar viral conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate, which has since become part of QAnon, the conspiracy theory began with an October 2017 post on the anonymous imageboard website 4chan, by "Q" (or "QAnon"), who was presumably an American individual; it is now more likely that "Q" has become a group of people acting under the same name. A stylometric analysis of Q posts claims to have uncovered that at least two people wrote as "Q" in different periods. Q claimed to be a high-level government official with Q clearance, who has access to classified information involving the Trump administration and its opponents in the United States. NBC News reported that three people took the original Q post and shortly thereafter spread it across multiple media platforms to build an Internet following for profit. QAnon was preceded by several similar anonymous 4chan posters, such as FBIAnon, HLIAnon (High-Level Insider), CIAAnon, and WH Insider Anon. Although American in origin, there is now a considerable QAnon movement outside of the United States, including in the United Kingdom and France since 2020, with a "particularly strong and growing" movement in Germany and Japan. Japanese QAnon adherents are also known as "JAnon" (Japanese: Jアノン).QAnon adherents began appearing at Trump reelection campaign rallies in August 2018. Bill Mitchell, a broadcaster who has promoted QAnon, attended a White House "social media summit" in July 2019. QAnon believers commonly tag their social media posts with the hashtag #WWG1WGA, signifying the motto "Where We Go One, We Go All". At an August 2019 Trump rally, a man warming up the crowd used the QAnon motto, later denying that it was a QAnon reference. This occurred hours after the FBI published a report calling QAnon a potential source of domestic terrorism, the first time the agency had so rated a fringe conspiracy theory. According to analysis by Media Matters for America, as of October 2020, Trump had amplified QAnon messaging at least 265 times by retweeting or mentioning 152 Twitter accounts affiliated with QAnon, sometimes multiple times a day. QAnon followers came to refer to Trump as "Q+".The number of QAnon adherents is unclear, but the group maintains a large online following. The imageboard website 8chan, rebranded to 8kun in 2019, is QAnon's online home, as it is the only place Q posts messages. In June 2020, Q exhorted followers in a post on 8chan to take a "digital soldiers oath"; many did, using the Twitter hashtag #TakeTheOath. In July 2020, Twitter banned thousands of QAnon-affiliated accounts and changed its algorithms to reduce the conspiracy theory's spread. A Facebook internal analysis reported in August 2020 found millions of followers across thousands of groups and pages; Facebook acted later that month to remove and restrict QAnon activity, and in October it said it would ban the conspiracy theory from its platform altogether. Followers had also migrated to dedicated message boards including EndChan, where they organized to wage information warfare in an attempt to influence the 2020 United States presidential election.After Trump lost the election to Joe Biden, updates from Q declined dramatically. QAnon beliefs became a part of attempts to overturn the election results, culminating in the storming of the United States Capitol, leading to a further crackdown on QAnon-related content on social media. On the day of Biden's inauguration, Ron Watkins, a former site administrator for 8chan and a de facto leader among QAnon adherents, suggested it was time to "go back to our lives as best we are able". Other QAnon adherents believed that Biden's inauguration was "part of the plan".
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