STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

From 8chan to YouTube and Trump rallies: how a right-wing conspiracy theory is going mainstream

Among the attendees of President Trump's rally in Florida were people holding up signs promoting an online r...

Posted: Aug 3, 2018 3:29 PM
Updated: Aug 3, 2018 3:29 PM

Among the attendees of President Trump's rally in Florida were people holding up signs promoting an online right-wing conspiracy persona -- who's been targeting movie stars and the Democratic Party alike.

The signs "We are Q" and "Q" appeared near the front of the crowd during Trump's speech in Tampa, as many live-streams showed.

2018 Parkland school shooting

Alphabet Inc

Companies

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Crimes against persons

Criminal offenses

Donald Trump

Google Inc

Government and public administration

Homicide

Mass murder

Murder

Political events

Political Figures - US

Political rallies

Politics

School violence

Shootings

Society

Violence in society

YouTube.com

Broadcasting industry

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Celebrities

Continents and regions

David Hogg

Digital and streaming video

Florida

Government bodies and offices

Internet and WWW

Internet broadcasting

Media industry

Michael Avenatti

Misc people

Movie and video industry

North America

Southeastern United States

Steven Spielberg

Streaming media

Tampa

Technology

The Americas

Tom Hanks

United States

US federal government

White House

QAnon

It was an apparent reference to QAnon, a group that originated on the 4chan messaging board around an anonymous user, "Q," who claims to be a member of the US military intelligence.

People wearing QAnon shirts and flashing similar signs were also pictured while lining up for the rally.

The group's theory, among other things, alleges that several A-list figures in the entertainment industry and the government are involved in child sex crimes and a "deep state" effort to annihilate Trump.

With the appearance of supporters at the Tampa rally, the movement appears to be moving beyond cyberspace.

Presidential Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders addressed their presence at the rally.

"The President condemns and denounces any group that would incite violence against any individual, and certainly doesn't support groups that would promote that type of behavior," she said.

Users on 4chan, Reddit and the more fringe 8chan devote their time to decoding the supposedly top-secret clues -- nicknamed "breadcrumbs" -- that "Q" routinely leaves on those channels. Then, they take action -- online but also offline -- based on a free interpretation of those clues.

One real-life example emerged a couple of days ago, when Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti called police to investigate a man who appeared near his office in Newport Beach after "Q" flagged the location in an online post.

On Monday, Avenatti tweeted a picture of a man, who is holding a cellphone in one hand and another object in another, standing outside his office saying: "We are trying to identify the man in this picture, which was taken outside my office yesterday (Sun) afternoon. Please contact @NewportBeachPD if you have any details or observed him. We will NOT be intimidated into stopping or changing our course. #Basta"

Avenatti told CNN he doesn't know whether or not the man in question is related to QAnon. "I am focused on who he is and why he was there that day," he said in an email.

The same building had been previously mentioned on an online forum by "Q" on Sunday. The anonymous poster dropped on 8chan two pictures of Avenatti's office in Newport Beach, saying "buckle up!"

Then, he posted a picture of the man saying a message "had been sent."

Avenatti said he's proud to be targeted by the conspiracy theorists on Twitter. "I wear it as a badge because it shows that Trump's supporters are very concerned about me, as they should be," he told CNN.

It's not known if the two incidents are tied, but police are involved.

A spokesperson for the Newport Beach Police Department told CNN: "We received a call about the photo on Monday at about 12:30 pm. We responded and took a suspicious circumstances report, which was forwarded to investigators for follow-up. At this point, there has been no indications of criminal activity (such as vandalism, threats, etc.)"

In a series of videos posted online, QAnon has targeted Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Cemex, a Mexican cement company, who were all baselessly accused of pedophilia.

Despite YouTube's efforts to fight misinformation and fake news, the videos appeared among the top search results on YouTube on Monday morning in searches for Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Cemex, according to media reports. One of the videos gathered more than 300,000 views.

Following these media reports, YouTube de-ranked the conspiracy videos.

However, as of Wednesday afternoon, the videos were still among the top results when filtered by ratings.

A conspiracy video entitled "#Qanon breaking: Hollywood actor Isaac Kappy exposes Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg as pedophiles" was still ranked third on the search by ratings, and autocomplete results for Cemex showed "Cemex child trafficking" when a user searched for the Mexican company.

"We're continuously working to better surface and promote news and authoritative sources to make the best possible information available to YouTube viewers," a YouTube spokesperson told CNN.

YouTube fixed the autocomplete feature for Cemex after CNN's inquiry.

Cemex, a Mexican construction materials company, is being targeted because it reportedly owns an abandoned camp in Arizona which conspiracy theorists erroneously believe is the location of a human trafficking site.

CNN has reached out to Cemex and representatives for Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg but has not received a response yet.

It is not the first time that YouTube has come under scrutiny for its perceived inaction towards conspiracy theory videos.

Less than an hour after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, videos falsely claiming that survivors and eyewitnesses including 17-year-old David Hogg were "crisis actors" were among the top trending on the video portal. Hogg has since been mentioned hundreds of times on 4chan's political archive.

A location for the account claims its geotag is a city in Russia, but CNN cannot verify that.

CNN reached out to 4chan for comment twice about these false posts about Hogg, but has not yet received a response.

Conspiracy theorists appear to be focusing on Hogg and his fellow students because they have been so outspoken about gun safety issues since the shooting.

As recently as last week, YouTube deleted four videos posted by InfoWars founder Alex Jones and gave him a strike -- meaning he cannot livestream content for 3 months. Jones and Infowars regularly peddle conspiracy theories, including the claim that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.

InfoWars has not yet responded to CNNMoney's request for comment. However, Jones tweeted an acknowledgment of the YouTube action with a link to the InfoWars website -- where he said the videos are still available.

YouTube is not the only tech company who had to deal with QAnon. Apple was forced to remove an app promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory after a media inquiry.

Fascination with QAnon conspiracy theories has also reached high-profile conservative figures and organizations. In March, before being fired from her sitcom, Roseanne Barr tweeted about the conspiracy theory, alluding to the baseless claim that President Trump "has broken up trafficking rings in high places everywhere." She later deleted the tweet after an online backlash.

Back in Florida, the official account for the Hillsborough County Republican executive committee recently tweeted, then deleted, a YouTube video explaining in detail the QAnon conspiracy theory, as first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Hillsborough County GOP chairman Jim Waurishuk told CNN the tweet was posted on July 4 for informational reasons with the intent of the Hillsborough County GOP followers keeping an eye out for what it means and any derogatory information that could cause problems.

After the Tampa Bay Times published a story on the tweet on July 16, Waurishuk says the Hillsborough GOP office started getting death threats in direct phone calls and emails to the Hillsborough GOP office. That is when the party deleted the tweet due to security concerns, according to Waurishuk.

Waurishuk says conspiracy theories are "an unfortunate aspect of politics."

"It's not beneficial," he told CNN. "We do not espouse that, we do not follow that, it's not part of our ideology. We don't stand by anything in QAnon."

Waurishuk added that he does not believe their tweet from July 4 is the reason why people were wearing QAnon T-shirts at Trump's rally in Tampa.

West Lafayette
Few Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 68°
Kokomo
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 62°
Rensselaer
Scattered Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 61°
Fowler
Scattered Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 61°
Williamsport
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 67°
Crawfordsville
Scattered Clouds
60° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 60°
Frankfort
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 61°
Delphi
Broken Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 63°
Monticello
Broken Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 63°
Logansport
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 61°
Warm-up again with increasing humidity & risk of storms.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 75862

Reported Deaths: 3069
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion16088730
Lake7688278
Elkhart492685
Allen4002163
St. Joseph357883
Hamilton2829104
Vanderburgh202213
Hendricks1927108
Cass18029
Johnson1789119
Porter135539
Clark128749
Tippecanoe123811
Madison100665
LaPorte93130
Howard91365
Kosciusko86812
Bartholomew81747
Floyd80948
Marshall79323
Monroe76631
Delaware74552
Dubois70812
Vigo69911
Noble68829
Boone68746
Hancock68339
Jackson5965
Warrick58830
Shelby56527
LaGrange56310
Grant52930
Dearborn51228
Morgan49334
Clinton4444
Henry40620
Wayne38510
White37611
Montgomery35921
Lawrence35227
Harrison34823
Decatur34132
Putnam3128
Daviess27720
Miami2772
Scott27210
Jasper2552
Greene25434
Franklin24615
DeKalb2384
Gibson2314
Jennings22712
Steuben2133
Ripley2138
Carroll1962
Fayette1947
Perry18713
Posey1790
Starke1787
Wells1742
Orange17424
Fulton1722
Wabash1703
Jefferson1672
Knox1610
Whitley1556
Tipton14312
Washington1421
Sullivan1381
Spencer1373
Clay1245
Huntington1243
Randolph1244
Newton12010
Adams1092
Owen991
Jay920
Rush854
Pulaski811
Fountain742
Brown741
Blackford652
Ohio656
Benton640
Pike590
Vermillion580
Switzerland530
Parke511
Martin480
Crawford450
Union410
Warren241
Unassigned0206

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events