This most recent push to limit QAnon's reach follows two high-profile campaigns driven by QAnon. One involves an intense harassment campaign against celebrity model Chrissy Teigen. The other a bogus conspiracy theory about the furniture marketplace Wayfair.
“That activity has raised the profile of the very long-standing problem of coordinated brigading. That kind of mass harassment has a significant impact on people's lives,” said @noUpside, research manager at the @stanfordio and an expert in online disinformation.
But Twitter proficiency is only one small part of why QAnon wields influence, and just one example of how platforms amplify fringe beliefs and harmful activity.
To actually stop QAnon, experts say, would take a lot more work and coordination. That is, if it’s even possible.
Before we dive in to how to stop QAnon, it’s important to understand the group’s origins and how it has become an “omniconspiracy.”
“QAnon has its origin in a multiplatform conversation that started off on social media, in a pseudonymous environment, where there's no consequence for speech,” says Brian Friedberg, a researcher at the @ShorensteinCtr Technology and Social Change Project.
QAnon posts have moved from one site to another following bans, and now appear on a messageboard called 8kun.

The posts have attracted followers who spend their time interpreting these messages, drawing conclusions, and leading campaigns to make the messages more visible.
The traditional understanding of QAnon was that its ideas are spread by a relatively small number of adherents who are extremely good at manipulating social media for maximum visibility.
At this point, QAnon has become an omniconspiracy theory, says @noUpside—it’s no longer just about some message board posts, but instead a broad movement promoting many different, linked ideas.
“The recommendation algorithm appears to have recognized a correlation between users who shared a conviction that the government was concealing a secret truth. The specifics of the secret truth varied,” says @noUpside.
Researchers have long known that different platforms play different roles in coordinated campaigns.

People will coordinate in a chat app, message board, or private Facebook group, target their messages (including harassment and abuse) on Twitter, and host videos on YouTube.
In this information ecosystem Twitter functions more like a marketing campaign for QAnon, where content is created to be seen and interacted with by outsiders, while Facebook is a powerhouse for coordination, especially in closed groups.
But instead of diminishing its power, QAnon simply shifted to other mainstream social media platforms where they were less likely to be banned.

This all means that when a platform acts on its own to block or reduce the impact of QAnon, it only attacks one part of the problem.
The potential harm of QAnon is already obvious if you stop viewing it as a pro-Trump curiosity and instead see it for what it is: “a distribution mechanism for disinformation of every variety,” Friedberg said.
. @CultExpert, a mental health counselor and an expert on cults who escaped from Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, known as the “Moonies”, says that discussing groups like QAnon as solely a misinformation or algorithmic problem is not enough.
“I look at QAnon as a cult,” says @CultExpert. “When you get recruited into a mind control cult, and get indoctrinated into a new belief system...a lot of it is motivated by fear.”
“Ppl can be deprogrammed from this ... But the ppl who are going to be most successful doing this are family members and friends.” Ppl who are already close to a QAnon supporter could be trained to have “multiple interactions over time” with them, to pull them out - @CultExpert
If platforms wanted to seriously address ideologies like QAnon, they’d do much more than they are, says @CultExpert.
2. @CultExpert recommends that platforms stop people from descending into algorithmic tunnels related to QAnon, and instead feed them with content from people like him, who have survived and escaped from cults—especially from those who got sucked into and climbed out of QAnon.
Friedberg, who has deeply studied the movement, says he believes it is “absolutely” too late for mainstream social media platforms to stop QAnon, although there are some things they could do to, say, limit its adherents' ability to evangelize on Twitter.
“They've had three years of almost unfettered access outside of certain platforms to develop and expand,” Friedberg says.
Plus, QAnon supporters have an active relationship with the source of the conspiracy theory, who constantly posts new content to decipher and mentions the social media messages of Q supporters in his posts.
(1/2) Breaking QAnon’s influence would require breaking trust between “Q,” an anonymous figure with no defining characteristics, and their supporters.
2. Considering “Q’s long track record of inaccurate predictions, that’s difficult, and, critical media coverage or deplatforming have yet to really do much on that front.
The best ideas to limit QAnon would require drastic change and soul searching from the people who run the companies on whose platforms QAnon has thrived.
And, Friedberg said, QAnon supporters were “poised to test these limitations, and already testing these limitations.”

For instance, Twitter banned certain conspiracy-affiliated URLs from being shared, but people already have alternative ones to use.
In the end, actually doing something about that would require “rethinking the entire information ecosystem,” says @noUpside. “And I mean that in a far broader sense than just reacting to one conspiracy faction.”
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