What is Qanon and why is it in the news this week?

Simply put, QAnon is a discredited American far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a group of paedophiles run a global child sex trafficking ring and conspired against former President Donald Trump during his time in office. The group believes that Trump was waging a war against elite Satan-worshipping paedophiles in government, business and the media. The messages from “Q” are known as “Q drops” or “breadcrumbs”, often written in cryptic language, with pro-Trump slogans and discourse. 

Followers of Q and QAnon have continued to grow on social media – it is understood there are thousands, if not millions of believers. One prominent figure and U.S. politician, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, is an outspoken supporter of QAnon. 

Many social media platforms have had to moderate and remove content and accounts due to misinformation. You might have also heard the group during the January 6 Capitol Hill insurrection – they played a signficant role in this incident. 

How did it start? 

QAnon started in 2017 on the website 4chan, where an anonymous user posted numerous messages, claiming they had a level of U.S. security approval known as “Q clearance”. All messages on the 4chan board from this user were signed off with “Q”. 

Q + Anonymous 4chan user = QAnon

From these messages, many conspiracies were born. The group is often described as a cult and/or movement. 

So, why is QAnon in the Australian news? 

There have been reports of an ABC Four Corners episode on Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s alleged links to a QAnon conspiracy theorist. Allegedly, the episode has been delayed for weeks. There are conflicting accounts about whether the QAnon program had been cleared by the ABC’s legal and editorial processes when ABC News Director, Gaven Morris stepped in and “upwardly referred” the episode to the ABC’s managing director for review, according to The Guardian. 

A spokesperson for the ABC has said “the ABC did not ‘pull’ a story from broadcast,” adding, “any suggestion to the contrary is misleading and mischievous. All ABC content is subject to the same rigorous editorial decision-making processes before being published”. 

The exact subject of the episode is still unknown; however, Morrison’s wife Jenny is reportedly friends with Lynelle Stewart, whose husband Tim Stewart is a prominent Australian QAnon proponent. It is expected the episode will go to air in the near future.

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