QAnon phrases appear to be “evaporating” from the mainstream Internet according to new research. The Digital Forensics Lab (DFRLab) revealed that use of QAnon terms and slogans have “plummeted” on popular social media sites like Twitter. But alternative websites such as Gab and Parler “have seen swells” in such language on their platforms.
The conspiracy theory and movement had seen dramatic increases in its popularity in the last two years. Its growth has since hit a roadblock in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s loss in the US presidential elections.
Jared Holt and Max Rizzuto carried out the research for the DFRLab which they published on Tuesday 26 May. Their research involved logging over 40 million uses of certain QAnon phrases or slogans between January 2020 and April 2021. Included in the list are well-known QAnon terms such as “WWG1WGA”, “the storm”, and “the awakening”. Holt and Rizzuto found that QAnon terms experienced a growth online in March 2020, just as the US government introduced restrictions to tackle the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) issued a similar warning. In a report on the issue it pointed to “major spikes” in QAnon activism online. On Twitter, for example, the ISD noted that the average number of people talking about QAnon increased “from 37,302 in the first week [of March 2020] to 89,338 in the last”.
A fall in reach
But Holt and Rizzuto have revealed that after peaking in June 2020 QAnon discussion on mainstream sites has now fallen “to a low murmur”. On one day in late May of 2020 the researchers logged a high point of 650,571 occurrences of QAnon slogans and phrases on mainstream websites. By March of this year the figure had fallen to 46,096.
The researchers believe that social media companies clamping down on the conspiracy is responsible for the dramatic drop in the presence of QAnon on their platforms. They argue that the data seem to “indicate that policy and moderation actions major tech companies took to counter QAnon and its corresponding online communities closely correlated with declines in terms that matched our queries”. And even though these actions were “belated”, they “were generally successful in reducing typical QAnon chatter on mainstream platforms”.
QAnon believers have shifted to alternative social media sites such as Gab and Parler, with the latter being the more popular of the two. But the data show that “even a slow day for QAnon slogans on Twitter almost always crushed both competitors combined”.
The report also points out that the research doesn’t mean QAnon is disappearing. Instead, it appears to be “moving on” and “morphing” in response to the presidency of Joe Biden.
Featured image via Flickr – Anthony Crider