After being banned elsewhere, social media accounts tied to a sprawling online conspiracy theory network are thriving on Donald Trump’s Truth Social, where at least 47 QAnon influencers with thousands of followers are verified users.
The former president himself – with nearly 4 million followers on his Twitter clone – has shared 30 different QAnon-affiliated accounts at least 65 times since his first post on the platform in April, according to a report from NewsGuard released on 29 August.
The report found that at least 88 accounts embedded within the QAnon delusion with more than 10,000 followers are promoting Q-related slogans, graphics and messages widely across the platform. More than one third of those accounts were previously banned on Twitter.
Before he was banned from that network in January 2021 in the aftermath of the attack on the US Capitol, then-President Trump shared more than a dozen posts from QAnon-promoting accounts on a single day in 2020. He previously praised QAnon proponents as “people that love our country”.
On his Truth Social in May, Mr Trump shared a graphic posted by a Q influencer – who currently has more than 31,000 followers – depicting the former president on a throne with a large “Q” in the background.
Later that month, he shared a message from a different QAnon-supporting account that posted the phrase “civil war” in response to a post by El Savador’s president claiming the US was “failing” possibly due to an “enemy” from within, NewsGuard found.
In July, Mr Trump shared a post from another Q-affiliated account – which now has more than 20,000 followers – that quoted former President John F Kennedy referencing a coming storm; Q adherents believe a cataclysmic “storm is coming” to eradicate political enemies before the “great awakening.”
Later that month, Mr Trump shared a post from a verified Q account that now has more than 117,000 followers calling the 2020 presidential election “a coup against the stewardship that we have … to choose our own represen[ta]tives to make this a constitutional republic.”
As The Independent previously reported following the platform’s formal launch, hashtags related to the QAnon slogan “where we go one we go all” were easily found among hundreds of recent posts, and profiles dedicated to “the great awakening” – the ascendance of a far-right renaissance with Trump at the helm, jailing or killing his political enemies – and other QAnon-referencing accounts were easily searchable through the platform’s account search function.
In January 2021, Twitter announced the suspension of more than 70,000 QAnon-linked accounts following the assault on the Capitol, fuelled by the former president’s baseless narrative that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him.
Many of those users have thrived on other platforms hosting far-right content, including Telegram and Gab, but the tenets of QAnon – amplifying baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and a belief that Mr Trump is battling a “deep state” controlling the government – are enmeshed in mainstream Republican politics, including members of Congress and GOP candidates running for critical positions that control election administration.
Conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins, the site administrator of a message board that facilitated posts from the “Q” persona but has denied accusations that he has posted as Q, has developed a following on Telegram following his ban from Twitter. He also joined Truth, where he has not posted since losing his Republican congressional primary bid in Arizona.
His father Jim Watkins, the site owner of the 8kun message board, is active on Truth, where he has more than 12,000 followers.
NewsGuard also found that current and former Truth Social executives are also sharing explicit QAnon content, including the chief executive of the acquisition company poised to take Trump Media & Technology Group public. Digital World Acquisition chief Patrick Orlando shared messages from other users promoting the “where we go one we go all” slogan, including one post with an American flag emblazoned with the catchphrase.
The analysis from NewsGuard follows warnings about a spike in violent far-right rhetoric in the wake of a FBI raid at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago compound and the US Department of Justice investigation into his handling of classified documents taken from the White House.
A man who was fatally shot by police earlier this month during an attempt to breach an FBI field office in Ohio posted a “call to arms” on Truth days before the attack, NewsGuard found.
At least three accounts that Ricky Shiffer interacted with on the platform shared QAnon-related content – including one user who was amplified by Mr Trump at least 12 times, including three times since after the attempted attack on the FBI office, according to NewsGuard.
Truth removed Shiffer’s account following the incident.
The latest analysis six months after the launch of the former president’s social network also follows reports that the platform has no guaranteed source of revenue and is struggling to grow, according to filings with the US Security and Exchange Commission.
Mr Trump has shot down those reports, claiming in a post on his Truth account that the “Fake News Media is devastated by how well TRUTH is doing” and “working overtime to criticize and demean it.”
“They said it is doing worse since the Raid, but actually is doing MUCH better,” he wrote. “We all love TRUTH!!!”