China has been found to be an organized spreader of QAnon conspiracy theories online, leading packs of citizens all over the world to believe in a number of lies.
QAnon has long been believed to be a naturally occurring "cult" thanks to the far-reaching Internet, but new reports are surfacing that there is one top promoter of QAnon conspiracy narratives online. The wide reach of QAnon today is not due to organic growth through sharing like wildfire but instead is attributed to the true superspreader: China.
According to Bitter Winter, a publication that reports on religious liberty and human rights from a network of correspondents in all Chinese provinces, QAnon conspiracy narratives online are being pushed by "organized spreaders, with a method, a strategy, and economic resources."
More shockingly, these super spreaders' activities have accounted for 19% of the QAnon-related propaganda on Facebook in 2020, and over 20% today.
So who are these top promoters of QAnon conspiracy narratives online? According to a report from The Soufan Center, a New York counter-terrorism and national security research firm, China has outdone Russia in being the "main agent active in amplifying QAnon narratives on Facebook."
But how is this possible when Facebook is banned in China? The answer is state-related actors.
The Soufan Center report revealed that this year, China is the "primary foreign actor touting QAnon-narratives online." The report also showed how in 2020, 40% of posts featuring QAnon conspiracy narratives originated from Russian administrators, 42% from Chinese administrators, 13% from Iranian administrators, and 1% from Saudi Arabian administrators.
It also showed how Russia at the first half of 2020 was leading the influence of online QAnon conspiracy narratives online, until China overtook them and began to rapidly expand its disinformation campaign in March last year. Their motive was to cover up the COVID-19 outbreak and the Uyghur genocide happening within their walls.
The Soufan Center also revealed that in 2021, "58% of posts came from administrators in China-at more than double the rate of those from Russian administrators." The report said that China's "disinformation capability has matured" since last year. This must be concerning for the U.S. government.
Internal Facebook documents provided to NBC News in August 2020 revealed that at least 10 Facebook groups of QAnon believers had over one million members, with followers of groups and pages amounting to over three million. Facebook has ben "key to QAnon's growth," the report revealed, mostly because of its Groups feature, which allows people to gather and discuss topics online in a secure private setting.
At the time the report was published, there were tens of millions of active groups and the growth of these QAnon conspiracy narratives online was also pushed by Facebook's recommendations feature that recommends other groups and pages to follow if a user is interested in a particular topic. Facebook has since then been investigating QAnon activity as part of a larger campaign to watch out for groups that could potentially incite violence.
According to Voice Of America, the FBI has recognized QAnon as a "potential domestic terrorist threat" that inspires extremist activity since 2019.