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Mon, 02 Nov 2020 15:25 - Updated Mon, 02 Nov 2020 15:25

QAnon received earlier boost from Russian accounts on Twitter, archives show

- Russian government-backed social media accounts nurtured the QAnon conspiracy theory in its infancy, earlier than previously reported, according to interviews with current and former Twitter executives and archives of tweets from suspended accounts.

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Researchers said in August that the archives showed Russian accounts had helped spread QAnon in volume beginning in December 2017,, but that team did not examine the history of specific QAnon promoters.

A more granular review by Reuters shows Russian accounts began amplifying the movement as it started, early in the previous month.

From November 2017 on, QAnon was the single most frequent hashtag tweeted by accounts that Twitter has since identified as Russian-backed, a Reuters analysis of the archive shows, with the term used some 17,000 times.

The archives contain more than 4,000 accounts that Twitter suspended for spreading Russian government disinformation in 2018 and 2019 but preserved for researchers.

The trove shows that some of the Russian accounts tweeted about QAnon’s most important popularizer even before the anonymous figure known as Q emerged, then rewarded her with more promotion when she put videos about Q on YouTube.

Asked about support for QAnon, the Russian embassy in Washington said Moscow does not interfere in U.S. politics.

“Malicious activity in the information space contradicts the principles of Russian foreign policy, national interests and our understanding of interstate relations,” a spokesman said.

A current Twitter executive said Russian accounts are not driving the present iteration of QAnon, which has expanded to include baseless claims about COVID-19 and other issues.

The original posts associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory appeared in late October 2017, purporting to be from a Trump insider with “Q” security clearance who said Hillary Clinton faced arrest and her allies were running a massive child-sex ring.Reuters

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