Textual analysis of almost 5,000 forum posts reveals two distinct signatures
Followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory think that the US election was a fraud, that the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax, and that the Democrats, specifically the Clintons, are at the helm of an underground child-sex ring. It’s basically a sprawling dark web network of people on the far-right who have spent too much time on the internet. Their leader, Q (whose followers claim is a government insider), has spread these theories anonymously on messageboard 4chan since 2017, and members of the cult have since brought them to a wider audience via mainstream social media platforms.
It has now been confirmed, according to Vice News, that the mysterious Q isn’t just one person posting from their parent’s basement surrounded by pizza boxes and empty cans of Mountain Dew, but is actually multiple individuals.
A “textual analysis” of Q’s 4,952 posts has revealed that they contain two distinct voices, undermining QAnon’s core government-insider philosophy. Claude Alain Roten, CEO of OrphAnalytics, the company behind the research says: “Our results very strongly suggest the existence of two different authors behind Q. Moreover, these distinct signatures clearly correspond to separate periods in time and different online forums.”
Roten refers to the switch made by Q from 4chan to the more obscure 8chan, on which he claims the “Q drops”, as the posts are known, are clearly distinguishable. They come in the form of cryptic messages that followers have to decipher, although OrphAnalytics did not decode the post’s meanings, but instead used artificial intelligence to measure the frequencies with which certain character patterns emerge to try and identify unique voices.
Worried by the steadily increasing prevalence of the QAnon theory, Facebook decided in October to ban all QAnon accounts from its platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, in an attempt to crack down on misleading and harmful content. “Starting today, we will remove Facebook Pages, Groups, and Instagram accounts for representing QAnon, even if they contain no violent content,” the company said in a statement. “We’re starting to enforce this updated policy today and are removing content accordingly, but this work will take time and will continue in the coming days and weeks.”
Q, meanwhile, has remained active on 8chan, renamed 8kun in 2019 after it shut down for several months due to a mass shooter posting their manifesto on the site. A popular belief among conspiracy theory researchers is that the Q drops are written by the founders of 8kun, father-son duo Jim and Ron Watkins, a claim the pair have repeatedly denied. The next step for OrphAnalytics, it says, is to cross examine the writings of Q on both sites with the writings of Jim and Ron Watkins, to see if they are a match. The company is yet to officially announce the project.