A conspiratorial post about the novel coronavirus by “Q,” the central figure of the QAnon conspiracy theory, is spreading throughout social media, harming efforts to convey that the virus is a legitimate danger to public health.
The QAnon conspiracy theory revolves around an anonymous account known as “Q,” and is premised around the claim that President Donald Trump was working with then-special counsel Robert Mueller to take down the president’s perceived enemies, the “deep state,” and pedophile rings. Multiple adherents to the conspiracy theory have been tied to acts of violence, including murders and an attempted kidnapping, and an FBI field office released a memo in May 2019 that listed QAnon as a potential domestic terrorism threat. The conspiracy theory started on far-right message board site 4chan and later moved to fellow far-right message board site 8chan, which has since relaunched as 8kun. The owner of 8chan/8kun, Jim Watkins, has shown support for QAnon and helped establish a QAnon super PAC. (Beyond the QAnon conspiracy theory, 8chan/8kun has been linked to multiple instances of white supremacist terrorism, including the August 2019 massacre in El Paso, Texas.)
On the evening of March 23, “Q” posted on 8kun’s “/qresearch/” message board about the coronavirus. The post used race-baiting language, referring to the illness as the “China virus,” and implied that the virus was a bioweapon created in order to harm Trump’s reelection chances. (This false conspiracy theory has spread elsewhere on social media.)
Since then, the post has spread throughout Facebook groups and Twitter among QAnon supporters, where it has received thousands of engagements combined, being cited for proof that “the virus is a Cabal weapon” and a “false flag” that “democrats look suspiciously responsible for.” The “Q” post was also able to spread thanks to QAnon apps that are offered on the Google Play Store (which Google profits from).
The “Q” post’s spread comes as supporters of the conspiracy theory have been using social media platforms to spread falsehoods about the virus being some kind of false flag by the “deep state” for population control or a “military operation” to target supposed elites. They have also promoted dangerous false cures for the disease such as drinking bleach.