QAnon conspiracy theories are being pushed further towards the mainstream in Europe, according to a new report.
Analysis by NewsGuard has discovered that unfounded theories have merged with local online conspiracy groups in France, Germany, Italy, and the UK.
The report also says that local European misinformation websites, celebrities, and politicians are contributing to the spread of QAnon content.
NewsGuard — an analytics firm that tracks misinformation — says that they have also counted more than 448,000 followers or members of QAnon-specific social media accounts in Europe.
One active YouTube channel in France, created in April 2020, boasts over 25,500 subscribers and claims to analyse news “with sincerity and without filters”.
Meanwhile, a dedicated QAnon Facebook page in Italy, with more than 15,000 followers, provides links to national and international conspiracy theory resources.
The largest German-language QAnon account found by NewsGuard — a YouTube channel with over 100,000 subscribers — was created in October 2018, while another active QAnon Twitter account based in the UK has over 27,000 followers.
NewsGuard says that many of these accounts push the claim that European countries are under the control of a “Deep State”. The accounts also target world leaders such as Emmanuel Macron and Giuseppe Conte.
The report adds that in 2020, these theories have moved from fringe groups to popular misinformation websites, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NewsGuard says the theories have also been republished within uniquely local conspiracy groups, including the pro-Yellow Vest movement in France and far-right conspiracy groups in Germany that have lamented the stationing of US troops.
The report adds that the unfounded ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory was reported by misinformation websites in Italy as early as November 2016.
“Red-rated” sites in Germany have also falsely accused elites and politicians of running a secret paedophilia network that involves the torture of children.
What is QAnon?
QAnon is an online group that began in the US in 2017 on the anonymous imageboard 4chan and has since amassed thousands of followers.
Baseless conspiracy theories have been shared by a number of US congressional candidates.
Marc-André Argentino, PhD candidate and associate fellow at the Global Network on Extremism and Technology, also told Euronews that the group has seen a surge in popularity in Europe over the past six months.
Twitter recently announced that it had removed 7,000 accounts linked to the QAnon conspiracy channel for violating guidelines on spam and platform manipulation.
In a statement to Euronews, the social network said that pushing QAnon content has the potential “to lead to offline harm”.
Some of the social media accounts cited in NewsGuard’s report have been removed or restricted, but a number remain active.
Euronews has contacted Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for comment in response to the report.