September 15-21, 2022 | Issue 5 - Counter Threat Strategic Communications (CTSC)
Christie Hui, CTSC Team
Chloe Bissett, Editor; Manja Vitasovic, Senior Editor
QAnon Flag With Slogan
Date: September 16, 2022
Parties involved: Former US President Donald Trump; QAnon; QAnon followers; Trump supporters; social media platform Truth Social; US politicians
The event: Former President Trump reposted a picture of himself wearing a Q lapel pin, with the caption “THE STORM IS COMING WWG1WGA” on his social media platform, Truth Social. Among the QAnon conspiracy theorist movement, the “storm” refers to Trump being reinstated as President and allegedly saving society by removing from power satanic elites, who traffic children. WWG1WGA is a common slogan of the QAnon movement, meaning “where we go one we go all.”
Analysis & Implications:
Reposting the image almost certainly indicates that Trump is embracing the movement’s image of him as a savior. This acceptance will very likely encourage the movement, likely insinuating that a change is coming through Trump’s presidential run in the next elections. Trump is likely perpetuating QAnon conspiracy theories to earn voters’ support among the movement members.
QAnon members will very likely use social media to spread QAnon conspiracy theory on Trump as savior, likely to raise awareness of the movement and to increase pro-Trump support before the election period. Followers will likely create new content depicting Trump as their savior and rightful leader, likely to get his attention, as Trump’s reposts are likely perceived as validation and would likely foster a sense of belonging. The increased amount of QAnon content online will likely reach a larger audience due to Trump’s shares.
Politicians running for office will likely espouse QAnon beliefs to obtain and take advantage of Trump’s endorsements, likely to gain political support for running for higher-level positions even if these espoused beliefs are not personally held. Pretending to hold these beliefs for endorsements will likely convince Trump supporters and QAnon followers that the prospective elected officials are credible and important candidates. Espousing QAnon beliefs will likely promote far-right ideologies. The movement will likely earn more followers and support due to increased perceived political legitimacy validity of QAnon conspiracy theories.
Date: September 18, 2022
Location: Texas, USA
Parties involved: US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit; Judge Andrew S. Oldham; Texas Governor Greg Abbott; Texan residents; NetChoice; the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA); large social media platforms; Twitter; Facebook; YouTube; Gab; Gettr
The event: The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld House Bill 20 (HB20), a Texas law signed by Governor Abbott which prohibits large social media platforms from censoring online speech or banning users based on their viewpoints or geographic location in Texas. HB20 enables Texans to reinstate their accounts by using social media platforms that have at least 50 million monthly active users. Judge Oldham rejected the argument of NetChoice and the CCIA, who challenged HB20 and argued that social media platforms have the constitutional right to curate content.
Analysis & Implications:
Upholding HB20 will likely prompt users in other states to pressure their lawmakers into creating similar laws and will likely urge platforms to relax their content moderation policies. Allegedly harmful content, including hate speech or misinformation, uploaded by Texan residents will very likely remain on these platforms. Although HB20 applies to only Texan residents, uploaded content will almost certainly reach a global audience. Users located outside of Texas will very likely have a longer timeframe to view the original content as automated content moderation algorithms are unlikely to remove harmful content as quickly as in Texas.
There is a roughly even chance that HB20 will encourage migration to mainstream platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, from less moderated platforms like Gab and Gettr. The large user base on mainstream platforms will likely attract threat actors potentially aiming to recruit and radicalize, as there are likely more opportunities for these users to build online engagement. Successful recruitment of individuals on large platforms with worldwide users will likely enable threat actors to coordinate violent events and attacks located around the world.
 “QAnon at Virginia 2nd Amendment Rally (2020 Jan)” by Anthony Crider licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic
 Trump beings openly embracing and amplifying false fringe QAnon conspiracy theory, PBS, September 2022
 Appeals Court Upholds Texas Social Media "Censorship" Law, CNET, September 2022 https://www.cnet.com/news/social-media/appeals-court-upholds-texas-social-media-censorship-law/