Facing crackdowns from tech companies that limit the reach of their content, leaders in the QAnon conspiracy theory movement have been urging their followers to drop the “QAnon” label from their wide-ranging conspiracy theories and simply refer to their fight against a fictitious cabal of powerful baby-eating politicians without their increasingly problematic branding.
The shift in tactics comes the same week as Twitter released new data stating that their ban on QAnon-related accounts was severely limiting the reach of the conspiracy theory.
A Twitter spokesperson said that QAnon-related tweets had been cut in half in the two months since the company banned high-profile QAnon Twitter accounts and surfaced QAnon-related tweets lower in search results.
In many ways, the QAnon movement has already spread well beyond its name. Growing momentum behind events and groups that purport to be against pedophilia and human trafficking have gained traction in recent months. But QAnon references have remained reasonably common on the social media profiles of event and group organizers.
QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory that posits that an elite group of President Donald Trump’s enemies are secretly kidnapping and eating children, and the president is secretly stopping them. Adherents of the QAnon conspiracy rely on posts from a fictional government insider, who goes by “Q” and posts on the fringe internet message board 8kun.
The anonymous Q account, which frequently writes in fake code so that followers can attempt to decrypt messages, wrote an uncharacteristically unambiguous message to adherents last week.
“Deploy camouflage. Drop all references re: 'Q' 'Qanon' etc. to avoid ban/termination,” the Q account wrote. “_censorship install. Algos [sniffers] bypass.”
Some high-profile QAnon influencers with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers took their Twitter accounts down and scrubbed all mentions of QAnon in an effort to avoid a ban.
“I’m still active on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, but the information I provide there will change. It must be camouflaged,” said one prominent QAnon influencer in a post to his followers. “Despite these changes, I want you to know my source has not changed.”
Disinformation experts say the strategy to disassociate QAnon from the myriad pro-Trump conspiracies it’s producing is important in the run-up to November’s election.
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