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21/11/2022 | Female targets of QAnon conspiracy attacked up to 10 times more, study finds

Ian Allen

FEMALE TARGETS OF CONSPIRACY theories propagated by QAnon adherents face up to 10 times more online harassment and abuse than male targets, a behavioral study of pro-QAnon online users has found.

 

QAnon refers to an American-rooted conspiracy theory that views former United States President Donald Trump as a central figure in a behind-the-scenes battle against a sinister cabal of enemies, known as the “deep state”. According to QAnon adherents, “deep state” elites (politicians, entertainment figures and other celebrities) consist of Satan-worshiping cannibals who traffic children for sex. QAnon adherents also believe that these elites will be routed during “The Storm”, a final reckoning between Trump and the “deep state”, which will result in the arrest and physical extermination of all elites.

But in a new study published last month by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a team of researchers posits that not all victims of QAnon adherents are targeted with equal intensity by the conspiracy theorists. Concordia University PhD candidates Marc-André Argentino and Adnan Raja, and ISD analyst Aoife Gallagher, used online data collected in 2020 and early 2021. They categorized the data according to six case studies involving celebrity figures, ranging from Tom Hanks and Anderson Cooper to Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey, all of whom have been prominent targets of QAnon conspiracy theories.

The researchers found that, in each case, online attacks proliferated quickly once individual targets were “labelled and perception [was] hardened in narratives about their alleged role in pedophilia and/or sex trafficking”. What followed was coordinated hate and harassment campaigns that included “forms of high-volume brigading” —a coordinated attack by groups of users united by belonging to the same antagonistic subreddit. In each case, negative sentiments were amplified through the multiplication of coordinated hateful —and often violent— content.

The study shows that “[g]ender-based, racist and anti-LGBTQ+ hate and rhetoric” was present throughout the dataset. However, of all factors —gender, race or sexual orientation— relating to the identities of targets, gender was by far the most determining. According to the data analysis, female targets of QAnon brigading were subjected to volumes of hate and harassment that were as many as ten times higher than those of their male counterparts. The study also shows that this gender-based variation was true in every platform used, such as Facebook (primarily), Instagram and Twitter.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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