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NAT’L – GUN RIGHTS – The Rise of QAnon

Over three years, the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon has spread from the outskirts of the internet into the mainstream. And by next year, it will most likely make its way into Congress: A QAnon supporter is almost sure to be elected after winning a Republican House primary runoff in Georgia this week.  It’s a remarkable rise for a group that believes in, among other things, a ring of Satan-worshiping, child-trafficking criminals led by prominent Democrats. We spoke with our colleague Kevin Roose, who has covered QAnon extensively, to get a sense of how the movement expanded its reach. Social media platforms are a big part of it. “It’s still very fringe in terms of its ideology, but not in terms of its scale,” Kevin said. “We’ve seen QAnon Facebook groups swell to hundreds of thousands of members, and they are routinely driving conversations on social media.” This week, NBC News reported that an internal Facebook investigation found thousands of QAnon-supporting groups and pages with millions of members and followers. Twitter permanently suspended thousands of accounts associated with the movement last month. And TikTok has blocked searches for QAnon-related hashtags. But these companies have “realized belatedly that this is a major problem,” Kevin said. “The horse has left the barn.” The pandemic, which led many people to spend more time online, has also bolstered the movement, Kevin said: “Our social interactions are mostly taking place online, and that means that the communities that have power online, including QAnon, are a much bigger part of the discourse.” Much of its growth also comes from its ability to attach itself to, and then absorb, both legitimate causes and “every major conspiracy theory of the past 50 years,” Kevin said. Its followers are “deliberately attempting to radicalize new groups of people,” he noted, by infiltrating Facebook groups focused on vaccine safety, parenting, and natural food and health. “These are people who might be skeptical of mainstream science or authorities,” Kevin said, “and they’re inserting their messages to those communities. So that’s what people need to be made aware of — these aren’t people hanging out in the dark corners of the internet anymore.”  [full article]

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