Donald Trump’s social media platform Truth Social and its leadership have made direct appeals to supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory as part of a strategy to increase its user base. Kash Patel, who has sat on Truth Social’s board, suggested in June that the platform was trying to “incorporate” QAnon “into our overall messaging scheme to capture audiences.”
According to Trump, Truth Social, which was launched by his company Trump Media & Technology Group in February, was created to “fight back against Big Tech.” It aimed to become a home for Trump, who was banned from Twitter, and right-wing audiences who falsely believe mainstream social media platforms were censoring them by enforcing rules on misinformation and extremism.
Soon after Truth Social’s launch, one of the first accounts reportedly created there was “@Q,” possibly by the platform’s developers. (In response to someone posting that “the admins … made that account,” the account wrote it was “accurate.”) The account began to promote QAnon not long after it was created and was likely trying to sound similar to its namesake “Q” -- the conspiracy theory’s central figure who had posted on the message board site 8kun but had gone silent between December 2020 and this past June.
Shortly after, Patel and Truth Social CEO Devin Nunes started promoting the account. (Patel served as a senior adviser to Nunes when the latter was a member of Congress and there has been reporting that he may have been removed from the Truth Social board. He also served in the Trump administration as chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense.)
Around the same time, QAnon influencers discovered the account and hyped it, believing it was connected to the 8kun Q. In late February, Patel posted that he was “having a beer with @Q right now,” with a tagged photo showing a person’s arm in a flannel shirt. The same day, the Truth Social @Q account wrote that it was “kashin’ out with @Kash,” including a photo of someone in a “Kash’d Out” shirt holding a beer.
Patel’s interactions with @Q also caused a new trend in the QAnon community. One of @Q’s posts in late February, apparently featuring a photo of Patel’s arm in a flannel shirt, claimed that it was having a “#FlannelFriday #BirthdayCelebration w/ @Kash.” Some apparent Truth Social employee accounts supporting QAnon pushed this trend and engaged with users who were excited about them “representing us anons.” Since then, the QAnon community has celebrated “Flannel Friday,” with one user calling it evidence that Truth Social “loves anons.”
Meanwhile, Patel continued to interact with @Q, such as writing that he and former Trump deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino “needed to throw back a few MAGA inspired lagers with @Q.” (Scavino has repeatedly seemed to wink at QAnon supporters with his social media content.) Patel also tagged @Q when someone claimed that he had secretly mentioned Q during a Fox News appearance. (@Q has also claimed that Patel signed a copy of his book for it.)
Patel also joined in on the Flannel Friday trend, invoking it in response to a @Q post. And when he appeared on right-wing YouTube host Tim Pool’s show in May, Patel bragged about how the trend had become a “massive thing online.” He claimed that the trend was due to the @Q account on Truth Social and said he was “not going to get into” whether that account is “the real Q.” He also mentioned that the photo of his flannel-clad arm that @Q posted “turned into Flannel Fridays cause I was having this beer and I was wearing a flannel shirt.”
Patel’s catering to the QAnon community has also gone beyond the @Q account. In July, he posted an image featuring a flaming Q on Truth Social and starting in at least April, he went on numerous QAnon-supporting shows to promote Truth Social — urging viewers to join the platform, praising hosts for being on the platform, and promising to promote the hosts there. On one of the shows, Patel spoke positively of QAnon followers, saying, “Whether it’s the Qs of the world, who I agree with some of what he does and I disagree with some of what he does, if it allows people to gather and focus on the truth and the facts, I’m all for it.” He also said of Q, “There’s good that he’s done, there's bad that he’s done,” and encouraged QAnon supporters to join Truth Social.
On yet another show in June, Patel went even further, saying of QAnon, “We try to incorporate it into our overall messaging scheme to capture audiences because whoever that person is has certainly captured a widespread breath of the MAGA and the America First movement. And so what I try to do is -- what I try to do with anything, Q or otherwise, is you can’t ignore that group of people that has such a strong dominant following.”
In that interview, Patel also said of QAnon, “There's a lot of good to a lot of it,” and he agreed with a co-host who said “Q has been so right on so many things,” saying, “I agree with you. … He should get credit for all the things he has accomplished, because it’s hard to establish a movement, let’s call it that, because it’s what it is. And he’s put out so many names, you know, not just mine, but he’s put out so many great American figures who have been out there pounding -- like the Johnny Ratcliffes of the world, the Whitakers, the Grenells, all these folks that were in the Trump administration that people barely knew about, they know because in large part because he was able to put out their work.”
In reality, QAnon is a categorically false conspiracy theory that has been tied to multiple acts of violence, including the January 6 insurrection, and multiple government agencies have issued internal warnings of domestic terrorism about QAnon supporters.
Patel was not the sole figure in Truth Social’s leadership that apparently saw the QAnon community as an important group for the platform’s growth either. Soon after @Q was created, the platform’s CEO, Devin Nunes, responded to the account, writing, “Who is Q.” Some QAnon influencers noticed the post and took it as evidence for the account’s legitimacy. Nunes subsequently tagged the account in multiple posts, including suggesting @Q was “probably hanging out with” Scavino and Patel. Nunes has also amplified content from “/qresearch/,” the 8kun message board that Q posts on, and he has been recorded holding up a business card he received from QAnon influencer Jeffrey Pedersen, known online as “intheMatrixxx.” (Afterward, on Pedersen’s show, Patel promised Pedersen that he would try to get Nunes on the show.)
Nunes’ and Patel’s patterns of activity have not gone unnoticed by QAnon supporters. In June, a QAnon influencer said that Nunes and Patel were “playing with us” and were “giving me so much hope,” adding that Nunes and Patel’s actions meant that QAnon supporters were “one step removed from talking with Donald Trump.” Another QAnon influencer then responded, “I remember when the Q people were the booger-pickers of the internet and, you know, there was nothing cool about it. We were … dorks. We were, you know, nobody liked us, nobody wanted to play with us. Slowly but surely, people started to kind of come on board. And now I’ve totally seen the tide turn, especially with Truth Social.”
Even an apparent denial from @Q on its authenticity has not been enough to stop the QAnon community from giving it attention. Soon after its flannel post in February, the account wrote, “Q’s just a harmless nickname. Just a fake Q having fun trolling the Fake News with @Kash. But let’s keep flannel Friday.” Despite that post, QAnon influencers still claimed that the account was significant because of its posts and interactions with Patel and Nunes, and continued to focus on its activity over the following months.
Truth Social has shown support for the QAnon community in other ways as well: It has verified numerous QAnon influencers and Trump himself has repeatedly amplified QAnon accounts on the platform. And it is not the first right-wing social media platform to see the QAnon community as a way to increase its user base. Gab, a social media platform known for its white nationalist user base, tried to get QAnon supporters to join the platform, which many did following Twitter’s crackdown on QAnon after the January 6 insurrection.