What’s behind the rise of QAnon in the UK?

Somebody Is Starting To Figuring Out It’s A WORLDWIDE Thing… NOT a “Trump” Thing

BBC By Shayan Sardarizadeh

A wide-ranging conspiracy theory about elite Satan-worshiping paedophiles has migrated from the US, inspiring a series of regular street protests. How did QAnon find a British audience?

On a sunny day in late August, nearly 500 people gathered in central London. It was the first event held by a new group, Freedom for the Children UK.

As the crowd marched from the London Eye to Buckingham Palace, chants of “Save our children!” echoed in the air.

The ethnically diverse crowd was made up mostly of young people and women, some with their children. At the head of the march were group leaders Laura Ward and Lucy Davis.

Ms Ward, 36, who says she underwent a “spiritual awakening” during the Covid-19 lockdown, created a Facebook group in July “to promote and organise peaceful events that raise the awareness of child exploitation and human trafficking”. It took off, gathering thousands of followers in just a few weeks.

The London march was just one of 10 rallies held across the UK, including events in Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester. A Liverpool rally drew similar numbers of people.

The organisers say their movement is not directly linked with QAnon, a wide-ranging, baseless, pro-Trump conspiracy theory.

But their themes are similar, and their evidence-free claims largely the same. And when images began to appear on the FFTCUK Facebook group later that day, placards, signs and items of clothing directly referencing QAnon were prevalent at almost all of the rallies.

What is QAnon?

QAnon began life – most likely as a joke or prank – on extreme message boards in 2017. It’s an unfounded conspiracy theory that claims President Trump is secretly battling a clandestine network of Satan-worshipping elites who run a child trafficking ring.

The “Q” in QAnon is the person or persons writing cryptic messages to the movement’s followers. Q claims to have top secret clearance within the US government. Q has told followers to “trust the plan” for a “great awakening”. The messages have predicted mass arrests or purges of top Democratic Party officials. And none of the prognostications have come true.

Despite its bizarre premises, QAnon took off in niche online communities and rapidly grew on social networks.

What is #SaveOurChildren?

Until this year, the conspiracy theory was confined to the internet’s fringes. But then came the pandemic. QAnon influencers took advantage of fear, uncertainty and doubt – and the fact that many people were at home, worried, and living more of their lives online.

Surveys from the Pew Research Center indicate that the number of Americans who are aware of QAnon and support its ideas increased substantially this year. Supporters have been linked to several violent crimes.

In light of this, several major social networks including Twitter, Facebook and TikTok began restricting QAnon terms, phrases and hashtags on their platforms over the summer.

Believers changed tack. Urged by a Q message to “learn the use of camouflage digitally”, followers avoided direct references to QAnon and began hijacking well-known, established hashtags and phrases used by genuine campaigners against child trafficking – such as the innocuous sounding #SaveTheChildren and #SaveOurChildren.

Read More at BBC

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