Misinformation Monitor: August 2022

Editor’s Note: As of February 2024, the Misinformation Monitor is now Reality Check, a weekly newsletter on misinformation and media online. Learn more and subscribe here on Substack.

Trump's Truth Social profile on Aug. 24, 2022. (Screengrab via Truth Social)

Trump and His Truth Social Platform Actively Promote QAnon

Through Trump’s reposts, verified accounts, and other methods, Truth Social has become an active booster of the online extremist movement

By Jack Brewster, Coalter Palmer, and Shayeza Walid

Banned by Twitter and other social media outlets, QAnon adherents have flocked to Truth Social, former President Donald Trump’s social media platform, which bills itself as a free-speech haven. A NewsGuard review found that Trump and top executives working for the platform actively promote these QAnon accounts.

QAnon supporters contend that Trump and an anonymous government operative who goes by the name “Q” are engaged in a struggle to take down a “deep state” network of child sex traffickers. QAnon has been linked to numerous violent incidents, including the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol; an armed standoff at the Hoover Dam in 2018; and the 2021 killing of two infant children by their father, who allegedly told prosecutors that he had been “enlightened by QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories.”

Using their Truth Social accounts with large followings, Trump and other Truth Social leaders and funders regularly boost QAnon accounts and messages on the fledgling platform, NewsGuard found. This includes the CEO of Truth Social, Devin Nunes, a former Republican member of Congress, as well as Patrick Orlando, chief executive of Digital World Acquisition Corporation, the specialpurpose acquisition company (SPAC) that funds Truth Social. (SPACs are shell corporations that raise capital by listing on a stock exchange.)

NewsGuard found that Truth Social has verified 47 QAnon-promoting accounts, all with more than 10,000 followers. According to Truth Social Support, the platform awards a red verification badge to users who are “highly searched for public figure[s],” just as Twitter does with its blue check, with the verifications signaling a level of author authenticity.

In total, NewsGuard identified 88 users (unverified and verified) on Truth Social with more than 10,000 followers each, who have promoted QAnon slogans, graphics, and ideas. More than a third, 32, were previously banned by Twitter.

NewsGuard found that Trump, who has 3.8 million followers on Truth Social, has “reTruthed” (Truth Social’s phrase for retweeting) 30 different QAnon-promoting accounts a cumulative 65 times since first posting on the platform in April 2022. Cumulatively, the QAnon-promoting accounts boosted by Trump have approximately 772,000 followers.

Current and former Truth Social executives have shared explicit QAnon graphics and messages and engaged in back-and-forth banter with QAnon accounts. In March, for example, SPAC chief Orlando reTruthed a post from a Truth Social account with the handle @Qpatriot45. The post included a graphic of Trump with the words “Trump was right about everything” next to a caption that included the acronym of the QAnon slogan, “WWG1WGA.” (WWG1WGA stands for “Where we go one we go all,” a QAnon rallying cry). In May, Orlando reTruthed a post from @QQPatriot of an American flag emblazoned with the QAnon catchphrases “Where we go one we go all” and “In it together.”

In March, Orlando reTruthed a post from Truth Social user Q Intelligence in which the user wrote "WWG1WGA," a popular QAnon hashtag (top). Two months later, in May, Orlando shared a graphic from @QQPatriot containing the QAnon catchphrases “Where we go one we go all,” and “In it together” (middle), and a picture (bottom) of a patch containing the letter "Q" in it alongside the message "The Hunters Become The Hunted." (Screenshots via NewsGuard)

NewsGuard’s findings come as multiple outlets have reported an uptick in violent rhetoric on the Truth Social platform in the wake of the FBI’s Aug. 8, 2022, search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. On Aug. 11, 2022, police shot and killed an armed Ohio man after he attempted to breach the FBI’s field office in Cincinnati. The suspect, identified as Ricky Shiffer, 42, of Columbus, appeared to have posted a “call to arms” on his Truth Social account days before the attack, along with other violent messages.

In addition, a NewsGuard review found that at least three of the accounts Shiffer interacted with on Truth Social spread QAnon themes, including the account @TONYxTWO. Trump has reTruthed the anonymous @TONYxTWO account at least 12 times since joining Truth Social, including three times after the attack on the FBI’s Cincinnati office, NewsGuard found.

One @TONYxTWO post — which Trump reposted on June 14, and replied, “Thank you Tony!” — included a photo of Trump standing next to two U.S. service members alongside text that stated “MAGA KING.” Another @TONYxTWO post, which Trump reTruthed after the FBI office attack, included a photo of Trump alongside text that stated “An American President having to fight an American government to protect American citizens.” Trump replied to @TONYxTWO “So true!!!” (Truth Social removed Shiffer’s account shortly after the incident, making it difficult to identify all the QAnon-promoting accounts with which he had interacted.)

In May, Trump reTruthed a post that alluded to violence, resharing a message from QAnon-supporting account @Algee that posted the phrase “Civil war” in response to a post by the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, claiming the U.S. was “failing,” possibly due to an “enemy” from within.

Truth Social has not disclosed recent data about its user base. As of June 2022, the app had 2.6 million downloads in the U.S. Apple App Store (Truth Social launched in February 2022). By comparison, Twitter recorded 41.5 million daily active users in the U.S. during the second quarter of 2022.

NewsGuard left two phone messages for Truth Social seeking comment for this story, but did not receive a response.

Ricky Shiffer was active on Truth Social and interacted with some QAnon-promoting accounts, including the account @TONYxTWO (top). Trump has also boosted @TONYxTWO, thanking him in a post on June 14, 2022 (middle.) (Screenshots via NewsGuard)
In May, Trump reTruthed a message from QAnon-supporting account @Algee (bottom4) that stated “Civil war” in reply to a post by Nayib Bukele. (Screenshot via NewsGuard)

Trump has repeatedly boosted QAnon-promoting accounts

Before he was banned from Twitter in January 2021, Trump, who once praised QAnon supporters as “people that love our country,” frequently retweeted QAnon-promoting accounts on the platform. NewsGuard found that the former president has continued this practice on Truth Social — but with less attention than his posts received on Twitter, where journalists and researchers regularly tracked his online behavior.

Posts reTruthed by Trump have included numerous QAnon slogans and graphics. In May, for example, Trump reTruthed a graphic, originally posted by the verified QAnon-promoting account @kagdrogo, that depicted the former president sitting on a throne with a large, uppercase “Q” in the background. (@kagdrogo’s Truth Social profile picture also depicts a large, uppercase “Q.”)

The same month, Trump reTruthed a post promoting “2000 Mules” — a documentary produced by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza that advances discredited fraud claims about the 2020 election — that included the hashtag “WWG1WGA.”

On July 29, 2022, Trump reTruthed a post from the QAnon-promoting account @GodandCountryy that quoted former President John F. Kennedy as saying, “I know there is a God — I see the storm coming and I see his hand in it.” In the QAnon vernacular, “the storm” refers to the day when the deep state network of child sex traffickers will be arrested by Trump.

Kennedy did recite this line at a rally in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1960, quoting Abraham Lincoln — although the Truth Social post omitted part of Lincoln’s quote that Kennedy also recited: “I know there is a God and I know He hates injustice. …”  Later on July 29, Trump reTruthed a post from the verified QAnon-promoting account @TheStormHasArrived17 that called the 2020 election “a coup against the stewardship that we have … to choose our own represen[ta]tives to make this a constitutional republic.”

In May, Trump reTruthed a graphic (top), originally posted by the verified QAnon-promoting account @kagdrogo, that depicted the former president sitting on a throne with a large, uppercase “Q” in the background. That same month, Trump reTruthed a post (middle) promoting “2000 Mules” that included the QAnon slogan “WWG1WGA.” (Screenshots via NewsGuard)
Verified QAnon-promoting accounts have celebrated Trump’s reTruths of QAnon slogans. In a July 2022 post (bottom) user @TheStormHasArrived17 wrote, “President Trump reTruthed a quote from JFK this morning that said ‘storm coming,’ and then right after that, he reTruthed ‘TheStormHasArrived’ (yours truly 🙃)...” (Screenshot via NewsGuard)

Verified QAnon-promoting accounts have, in turn, celebrated Trump’s reTruths of QAnon slogans and accounts. In a July 29, 2022, post, for example, user @TheStormHasArrived17 wrote: “President Trump reTruthed a quote from JFK this morning that said ‘storm coming,’ and then right after that, he reTruthed ‘TheStormHasArrived’ (yours truly 🙃)… Back to back: storm coming / storm arrived.” In the comments section, dozens of other users celebrated Trump’s posts.

Truth Social funders and management share QAnon messages and boost QAnon accounts 

Along with Orlando, other members of Truth Social management have shared and otherwise interacted with QAnon accounts. Former U.S. Rep. Nunes, the chief executive officer of Truth Social, and Kashyap (Kash) Patel, a former Trump administration official who until June served on Truth Social’s board of directors, regularly interact with and tag an anonymous, QAnon-promoting account with the handle @Q, which has gained a cult following on QAnon message boards and among QAnon influencers. The unverified @Q account regularly posts QAnon slogans and catchphrases on Truth Social and has approximately 214,000 followers.

In February, Patel, who served as chief of staff to the acting U.S. secretary of defense under President Trump, posted a photo of a person’s arm in a flannel shirt and commented, “Having a beer with @q right now…” Patel’s post ignited a new trend in the QAnon Truth Social community, in which QAnon supporters regularly post the hashtag #FlannelFriday on Fridays to show their support for QAnon’s association with Truth Social.

Weeks later, Nunes followed suit, tagging @Q in a series of posts in which he repeatedly joked that Dan Scavino, Trump’s former social media manager and deputy chief of staff, was missing and “probably hanging out with @Kash and @Q.” In all, Nunes has tagged the @Q account five times since February 2022, while Patel tagged @Q 14 times during the same period.

Nunes and Patel have promoted other QAnon accounts. In June, Nunes reTruthed a post from verified Truth Social user and QAnon proponent @lisamei62 that included a screenshot of the “Q Research” page on 8kun.top, an anonymous message board, next to comments from @lisamei62 about why she blocks users who post insults. “We are in an information WAR with REAL enemies bent on destroying our Republic,” @lisamei62 said. Nunes replied, “#makesocialmediafunagain.”

In July, Patel reTruthed a post from @TheStormHasArrived17, a verified QAnon-supporting account, that included a video of a Fox News interview with U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and Trump critic who has co-chaired the House probe of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Patel replied, “Thank you so much @TheStormHasArrived17 – great work.”

Kash Patel and Devin Nunes regularly interact with and tag an anonymous, QAnon-promoting account with the handle @Q, which has repeatedly shared QAnon messages. (Screenshots via NewsGuard)
(Bottom) In June, Nunes shared a post that included a screenshot of the “Q Research” page on 8kun.top, an anonymous message board. (Screenshot via NewsGuard)

NewsGuard identified four other high-level current or former Truth Social employees whose accounts have boosted QAnon-promoting accounts or shared original QAnon messages, including Andrew Northwall, Truth Social’s chief operating officer; B.J. Lawson, chief technology officer; Robert McNeily, who identifies himself as part of the VIP team at Truth Social on his verified Truth Social account; and Justus Eapen, senior software engineer. In addition, a verified account with the handle @Kevin, who claims in his Truth Social biography to be a senior software engineer at Truth Social but does not disclose his full name, has reTruthed or interacted with QAnon supporting accounts 48 times in the past three months.

Truth Social has verified at least 47 QAnon promoters, each with more than 10,000 followers

More than one third of the 47 verified QAnon-promoting accounts (20) identified by NewsGuard state their support for QAnon prominently in their Truth Social usernames, such as by featuring the letter “Q” in the account name, or in their biographies. For example, user @Qtah17 is verified on Truth Social and has approximately 121,000 followers. Another user, who goes by @Q anon76, is verified and has approximately 44,000 followers. @Qalerts, an account that states in its bio that it is the “The official TRUTH Social account” for QAlerts.app, a pro-QAnon blog that aggregates QAnon research, is verified and has approximately 117,000 followers.

Boosted by their elevated status as a verified user, QAnon proponents use Truth Social to advertise their blogs and newsletters, where they share QAnon messages and ideas and solicit donations to support their research. For example, Tracy Diaz, the founder and editor of UncoverDC.com, a far-right news and commentary site that has promoted QAnon and is Red-rated by NewsGuard, regularly links to her blog on Truth Social. Diaz is verified on Truth Social, where she boasts approximately 98,000 followers.

(Top) User @Qstradamus (left) is one of 47 verified QAnon-promoting accounts on Truth Social. (Screenshot via NewsGuard)
(Botttom) More than one-third of the verified QAnon-promoting accounts (20) state their adherence to QAnon in their Truth Social usernames or bios, NewsGuard found. (Screenshot via NewsGuard)

Former executive Patel suggested in a June 21, 2022, video webcast interview that Truth Social’s promotion of QAnon contributes to the platform’s business model. Asked about QAnon on an episode of “The Patriot Party News,” a conservative webcast, Patel responded, “Well, I think people are having fun with Q. I don’t really follow him. We try to incorporate it into our overall messaging scheme to capture audiences because whoever that person is has certainly captured a widespread breadth of the MAGA and the America First movement. And so what I try to do is — what I try to do with anything, Q or otherwise, is you can’t ignore that group of people that has such a strong dominant following.” This interview was first reported on by Media Matters For America, a nonprofit liberal blog that describes its mission as “documenting conservative misinformation throughout the media.”

Methodology: NewsGuard analysts defined QAnonpromoting accounts as those who have shared three or more posts with QAnon slogans, graphics, and ideas between June 15, 2022, and Aug. 15, 2022, and/or those that have QAnon catchphrases in their usernames, biographies, or other positions prominently displayed on their profiles. Some of these Truth Social users, such as Truth Social users @PrayingMedic and @IntheMatrixxx, have also previously been identified as QAnon influencers by journalists and researchers for spreading their false QAnon claims on other social media platforms.