Characterizing Reddit Participation of Users who Engage in the QAnon Conspiracy Theories

Characterizing Reddit Participation of Users who Engage in the QAnon Conspiracy Theories

CSCW 2022: The 25th ACM Conference On Computer-Supported Cooperative Work And Social Computing
Session: Misinformation, Fake News & Conspiracy Theories

Widespread conspiracy theories may significantly impact our society. In this short paper, we focus on the QAnon conspiracy theory, a consequential conspiracy theory that started on and disseminated successfully through social media. Our work characterizes how Reddit users who have participated in QAnon-focused subreddits engage in activities on the platform, especially outside their own communities. Using a large-scale Reddit moderation action against QAnon-related activities in 2018 as the source, we identify 13 thousand users active in the early QAnon communities. We then collect the 2.1 million submissions and 10.8 million comments posted by these users across all of Reddit from October, 2016 to January, 2021. The majority of these users were only active after the emergence of the QAnon conspiracy theory and before the 2018 QAnon ban. A qualitative analysis on the 915 sampled subreddits where the more QAnon-enthusiastic users were especially active shows that they participated in a diverse range of subreddits, often of unrelated topics to QAnon. However, most of the users’ submissions were concentrated in subreddits that have sympathetic attitudes towards the conspiracy theory, characterized by discussions that were pro-Trump or emphasized unconstricted behaviors (often anti-establishment and anti-interventionist). Most of these submissions consist of links from low-quality sources, bringing potential harm to the broader Reddit community. These results point to the likelihood that QAnon users on Reddit are dedicated and committed to the conspiracy, providing implications on both platform moderation design and future research.

Web:: https://cscw.acm.org/2022/

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