Bloggers railing against the deep state. Online videos warning against the mainstream media. Digital tirades denouncing a rigged election.
Are these the latest updates from the United States? Think again.
Europe’s QAnon movement — based on debunked claims that a deep-state conspiracy is out to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency — is in full effect, pushing online posts and showering encrypted message groups with claims that Joe Biden is trying to steal the U.S. election, according to a review of these online discussions by POLITICO.
On websites, some Facebook pages and in Telegram channels, British, French, German and Italian supporters of QAnon have thrown their weight behind their U.S. counterparts. Their support comes in the form of long tirades, in a variety of European languages, on the intricacies of the U.S. electoral process. “We can already see that the dominant media have lied, in the United States as in Europe and elsewhere in the world,” said one of France’s most-read QAnon websites.
Similar narratives have sprouted up in other parts of the European Union. Fringe groups are similarly promoting false claims, often spread virally online by U.S. right-wing social media influencers, that the Democratic Party is trying to steal the presidential election. In a televised press conference from the White House last night, Trump also promoted these false allegations.
Still, it’s important to remember a couple of points.
First, these groups have mostly been removed from the major social networks, so their already small reach has been diminished. Without a major presence on Facebook, Europe’s QAnon followers have migrated to encrypted messaging groups, some of which now have tens of thousands of followers and post hundreds of updates daily on U.S. politics, domestic affairs and the coronavirus.
Second, it’s hard to tell that the European QAnon followers fully understand the U.S. electoral college, the complex system by which American voters choose their president.
Without deep knowledge of the U.S. democratic system, it’s likely they are merely parroting their American counterparts, according to Chine Labbé, managing editor for Europe at NewsGuard, a social media analytics firm that has tracked the rise of QAnon.
“I don’t think a lot of the Europeans understand how the U.S. system works,” she said.
While these EU groups’ online footprint remains small, Trump’s potential loss could still galvanize QAnon across the Continent.
While much of the Continent dislikes Trump, QAnon followers have latched onto the president as a potential savior for their own countries’ ills, including demands that he come to Germany to rid them of Chancellor Angela Merkel — whom these fringe groups accuse of being part of the so-called deep state.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, QAnon’s followers have also become more sophisticated and coordinated, sharing memes and piggybacking on existing well-entrenched networks like the anti-vaccine movement.
Another major world event, like one the unfolding now in the United States, is another chance for often disconnected groups to band together around a common cause.
“We are just witnessing the birth of a new nation and this is just the beginning. A new world is coming,” said one prominent German QAnon website.