Data retrieved and analyzed by the DFRLab shows that the language of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement as it has historically appeared online has all but evaporated from the mainstream internet. In its wake lies a kind of neo-QAnon: a cluster of loosely connected conspiracy theory-driven movements that advocate many of the same false claims without the hallmark linguistic stylings that defined QAnon communities during their years of growth.
The QAnon conspiracy theory alleges that one or more high-rank individuals within former President Donald Trump’s inner circle utilized anonymous online imageboards to share national security intelligence with Trump’s strongest supporters. Followers of the conspiracy theory believe that the anonymously sourced messages, attributed to an author calling themselves “Q,” contain puzzles that can be solved to reveal information about a secret plan to crush a global network of business, entertainment, media, and political leaders plotting to subvert the United States by arresting them for their supposed engagement in human trafficking, satanic rituals, and child sex abuse.
Though outlandish, the political movement surrounding the claims blossomed into a fringe, yet powerful force in American politics since its inception. It produced two elected Republicans in the U.S. Congress and has been tied to acts of violence, murder, and terrorism. Several individuals who displayed belief in the conspiracy theory were arrested for participating in the insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Trump and his associates courted QAnon while in the White House; the movement’s followers were repeatedly boosted on Trump’s Twitter feed and QAnon-related content found its way to Trump’s family members again and again. Trump repeatedly declined opportunities to denounce the conspiracy theory. In August, he told reporters in the White House briefing room that he “didn’t know much” about QAnon and its supporters “other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.”