Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

QAnon is disappearing from online view

Specific language about the QAnon conspiracy theory has all but disappeared from mainstream public social media platforms, new research concludes.

Driving the news: Researchers from the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Lab found that the volume of QAnon content available online plummeted following major moderation and policy moves from Google, Facebook and Twitter.


Details: Researchers analyzed more than 45 millionmentions of QAnon catchphrases and related terms from April 1, 2020 to April 1, 2021 on both mainstream platforms and alternative ones such Gab and Parler.

  • Terms included popular QAnon phrases including "the storm," "the great awakening," "save the children" and "WWG1WGA (Where we go one we go all)."
  • Those terms started being used more frequently online in March 2020, peaked in June 2020 around racial justice protests, and spiked again before the January 6 Capitol riot.

Other factors contributed to the reduction in QAnon content.

  • "Q," the shadowy figure whose posts kicked off the conspiracy theory, went silent.
  • Some participants in the Q world masked their phrases to evade getting moderated.
  • Trump's election loss dispirited many Q believers.
  • "Of all factors... reductions correlated most strongly with social media actions taken by Facebook, Twitter, and Google to limit or remove QAnon content," the researchers write. "Actions taken by Twitter after the January 6 attack on the Capitol correlates strongly with a dampening of what remained of traditional QAnon chatter at the time."

The intrigue: While the volume of QAnon content on the right-wing-focused Parler and Gab networks did increase in late 2020 and again around the January Capitol attack, the researchers concluded that these sites did not absorb the QAnon conversations that mainstream platforms shut down.

  • That was at least in part because the alternative sites faced their own cut-offs from back-end service providers like Amazon Web Services and Twilio.

Yes, but: The research did not assess the volume of QAnon discussion in private groups or messaging platforms.

  • Public posts are where fringe groups gain new adherents, but private discussions are where their most dedicated followers end up.

What they're saying: "Moderation actions after the Capitol attack were particularly effective in stomping down what remained of QAnon chatter online," said Jared Holt, resident fellow at the Atlantic Council. "The data shows the companies didn't act... until it was exploding off the charts."

  • "The research is very significant," said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. "Concerted content moderation works... When they put their minds to it, the mainstream platforms can have a very big effect on marginalizing or eliminating toxic content."

The bottom line: Aggressive content moderation aimed at limiting extremist content can work, but "decisions to enforce rules and address threats of extremism are often prompted by tragedy instead of proactive thinking," said Holt.

Go deeper: Read the report

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

Keep reading... Show less

Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

Keep reading... Show less

What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories