Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the American Freedom Tour at the Austin Convention Center on May 14, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Untangling viral misinformation and explaining where it comes from, the damage it causes and what we should do about it.
In early February, the team behind former President Donald Trump’s social media platform, Truth Social, was scrambling to get things ready for the big launch later that month.
In addition to trying to get the apps working properly, the team wanted to make sure the fiasco didn’t happen again months earlier, when they launched a beta version of the site and someone created an account. @realDonaldTrump and published a picture of a shitting pig.
So on February 10, more than a week before the platform went live, the developers created Trump’s account.
But this account was not the first created on the platform. 24 hours earlier, the developers running Truth Social created an account with a single letter in its name: @Q.
Now, four months later, the platform is overrun with QAnon content, pushed by several QAnon influencers who have received verified profiles on the platform. And now Trump himself is beefing up QAnon content, sharing dozens of posts containing QAnon images, phrases or memes.
“It reminds me of what was on Twitter, in terms of tone and topic, before the platform banned QAnon content, with many accounts posting QAnon content,” Alex Kaplan told VICE. , researcher at Media Matters. New. “The community has also been excited about Truth Social, seeing it as another gathering place since it’s been mostly on Telegram and Gab since Twitter’s crackdown on QAnon following the Jan. 6 uprising.”
Kaplan has been closely following Trump’s interactions with QAnon content on the platform since the former president started using Truth Social last month. “According to my records, Trump on Truth Social amplified at least 25 separate accounts promoting QAnon a total of 43 times,” Kaplan said,
One of the stories Trump shared last week was so excited about getting a push from the president that he suggested it was a sign that one of QAnon’s key predictions was on. the point of coming true.
“DJT has Rt me twice now, and I regularly post memes about hanging traitors…it happens,” the account wrote with the @J6Patriot handle, adding a storm emoji.
Trump started Truth Social partly in response to being kicked off Twitter days after the Capitol riot. He said his site was a “Big Tent” social media platform that “encourages open, free and honest global conversation without discriminating against political ideology.”
But from the start, the site has been beset by technical issues, huge waiting lists, and a lack of Android support. Trump didn’t even bother to post anything on the site until last month.
On Monday, a filing with the SEC revealed that federal securities regulators have expanded their investigation into Truth Social’s funding. The SEC has requested more documents from a blank check acquisition company called Digital World Acquisition Corp, about communications between it and Trump.
The early creation of the @Q account strongly suggests that those running the site understood who their target audience might be.
Excitement had been building in the QAnon community since Trump’s social media platform launched some time ago. When the app finally launched, many members of the QAnon community were angry about the long waiting lists – but now those people have secured Truth Social accounts, and today the content they share is among the most engaged on the site.
The @Q account has over 170,000 followers, although the person(s) behind the account admitted it was “just a fake Q having fun following fake news”. Despite this, many QAnon followers continue to claim that this is the same person who posted nearly 5,000 posts on 4chan, 8chan, and 8kun.
Some QAnon influencers continue to lend credibility to the @Q account on Truth Social by analyzing new posts there as they did original Q posts. It’s being done as are these influencers, eager to maintain their influence over a group of people who were cut adrift when the original anonymous poster known as Q went off the air 18 months ago.
Truth Social did not respond to questions from VICE News about the prevalence of QAnon content on the platform, but two of the company’s executives have interacted with the @Q account in the past.
Kash Patel, who served as Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller’s chief of staff under Trump, posted a photo on Truth Social in February claiming he was having a beer with the person behind the @Q account, although the photo does not didn’t do it. show their face.
“The Q account on Truth is a big deal,” Mike Rains, a researcher who hosts the QAnon-focused podcast “Adventures in HellwQrld,” told VICE News. “[The account] likes to admit he really isn’t Q but lets everyone pretend he is. Kash Patel and Devin Nunes interacted with the account. Nunes is a former Republican congressman from California who gave up the seat he held for 19 years in order to run the social media company.
While Truth Social has apparently accounts banned for publication on January 6 commission hearingsthere has been no effort to quell QAnon conspiracy theories.
“I haven’t seen any attempt by Truth Social to limit QAnon’s content,” Kaplan said. “On the contrary, the platform appears to have legitimized the QAnon community, vetting multiple QAnon influencers.”
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