The Genesis of the Terrorism Group QAnon in Europe

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QAnon’s latest ridiculous theory is that governments encouraging mask-wearing are trying to implement Sharia Law rather than protect people from COVID-19.

QAnon is one of the most peculiar and manipulative conspiracy theory groups to exist. It was created in the United States and first appeared by a user called ‘Q’ on the controversial website 4chan in October 2017. The user “Q” claimed to have a level of US security approval known as “Q clearance”. 

QAnon’s initial following was by right-wing pro-Trump supporters who believe high profile celebrities and politicians are allegedly involved in a Satan-worshipping pedophile ring led by Democrats who are kidnapping, abusing, and eating children. In 2016, ‘Pizzagate’ was a discredited story, which specifically linked Hilary’s Clintons presidential campaign to that child trafficking ring. QAnon believes the alleged headquarters of the operation was the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington D.C, which they allege is a meeting point for Satanic ritual abuse. 

QAnon makes many dangerous unfounded accusations but is unable to provide any real evidence. The use of social media has been its driving force in disseminating fake news and misinformation about Muslims, Black Lives Matter protests, the 2020 US elections, and strengthening existing anti-vaccination theories to increase their worldwide profile.

The movement has now spread its toxic messages worldwide successfully. QAnon has particularly gained prominence in Europe mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Q symbol appeared on flags and posters during anti-Coronavirus restrictions demonstrations in Europe.

QAnon’s latest ridiculous theory is that governments encouraging mask-wearing are trying to implement Sharia Law rather than protect people from COVID-19.

The terrorist group also believes the pandemic is part of a grand plan by world elites and tweeted that: “The Deep State that created the virus wants to simulate an alien attack that will be 10 times worse than September 11.”  In July 2020, a UK QAnon Twitter account, which has 28,000 followers, linked an article titled “Social distancing was created by the CIA as a torture technique.” The article was published by Oye.News, a Red-rated UK news website that imitates the BBC’s logo and website. 

NewsGuard, an organisation rating the trustworthiness of information websites, published a detailed report on the QAnon phenomenon in Europe. Chine Labbe, who is EU Managing Editor of Newsguard, told EuroNews that, “The idea that you have this Deep State being led by world elites and working against the saviours, represented by a few white hats in the world with Donald Trump and others, it’s so easy to translate. For the French, it will involve Macron being described as a pawn of the Deep State.”

According to Newsguard, “we counted 448,760 followers or members across Europe on accounts they were able to identify”, which indicates there are even more.

In July 2020 Twitter banned thousand of accounts and in October 2020 Facebook also followed their lead and pledged to ban all accounts linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory movement from its platforms, which includes Instagram. The new rules have been enforced by Facebook’s Dangerous Organizations Operations team, which bans terrorist and hate groups. 

But the sheer volume of QAnon social media users distributing misinformation will be hard to remove as new Facebook groups and pages are constantly evolving under different guises to evade detection. Many Facebook groups are now using number codes rather than the Letter ‘Q’. Facebook is also not currently banning individual users from posting in support of QAnon.

The FBI believes the group to be a “domestic terrorism threat.” It has been linked to white supremacy groups, and in an internal assessment, the FBI stated that QAnon participates in “occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts.”

Simply put, QAnon is no longer just a dangerous fringe conspiracy group. The digital cult has grown into a mass terrorist organisation from America and is now infecting Europe with its insidious claims. Both technology organisations and individuals must face serious consequences enforced by European governments, for willingly and unwillingly contributing to the growth of QAnon.

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