A cross-platform analysis of the QAnon conspiracy theory
This article presents a cross-platform analysis of the QAnon conspiracy theory that was popularized online from 2017 onward. It theorizes its diffusion as one of normiefication: a term drawing from Web vernacular indicating how ideas and objects travel from fringe online subcultures to large audiences on mainstream platforms and news outlets. It finds that QAnon had a clear incubation period on 4chan/pol/ after which it quickly migrated to larger platforms, notably YouTube and Reddit. News media started covering the online phenomenon only when it moved off-line, which in turn briefly amplified engagement on the other platforms. Through these data-driven insights, we aim to demonstrate how this cross-platform approach can be replicated and thus help make sense of the complexity of contemporary media ecologies and their role in the diffusion of conspiracy theories as well as other forms of mis- and disinformation.
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