The Boom Before the Ban: How QAnon Content Spread on Facebook
During the summer of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world and forced many inside for safety and online for social connection, Facebook activity relating to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory experienced an unprecedented surge.
A new report produced in partnership between NewsGuard and the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue provides some of the most comprehensive analysis of QAnon and the online activity of its followers in the months leading up to a critical ban from Facebook.
We found that posts with terms related to QAnon — such as “Where We Go One We Go All” (WWG1WGA) or “pedogate” — appeared on Facebook over 1,000 times per day on average from April to September 2020. Our report analyzes the key themes from these posts, like the convergence of QAnon and COVID-19 misinformation, as well as the news sources referenced in posts about QAnon.
NewsGuard’s domain analysis demonstrated that QAnon followers referenced many unreliable Red-rated news sources, including established misinformers like The Gateway Pundit as well as fringe misinformers like Humorous Mathematics. Notably, NewsGuard found that QAnon followers also posted many links from Green-rated sources, either to celebrate the attention from mainstream news or to distort accurate information as evidence of a deep state conspiracy.
The report follows and confirms previous analysis from NewsGuard about QAnon’s international reach, with posts about the conspiracy from over 16 languages.
Facebook banned QAnon activity in early October, but our report documents how the conspiracy spread rapidly and gained a sizable audience on the platform prior to this action, and multiple sources of QAnon misinformation named in the report remain active. Download the report here or browse through it below.