QAnon in Italy: a growing phenomenon?

Pandemic are scary. There is nothing worse that an invisible enemy to spread anxiety. Information is partial, contradictory. Rumors and minsinformation flourish. People have to grapple daily with uncertainty and fear. Such a context is a breeding ground for conspiracy theories and their harmful consequences.

Among the interesting phenomena that have been observed so far, there is the attempt to incorporate the pandemic into already established conspiracy and fringe narratives, such as the anti-vax and the Q-Anon one. The first one is rather popular in Italy. In this country, a law on mandatory child vaccinations (2017) sparked an heated debate and information crisis and
fueled the spread of misinformation on social media. The QAnon conspiracy theory, on the contrary, is not so common in Italy. However, the situation could change.

Analyzing 12 months of data from Google Trends, Twitter and Facebook, I have observed a unequivocal rising interest in QAnon theories in Italy during the last period of the Covid-19 quarantine.

Italian Google Search interest, Facebook post (CrowdTangle data) and Tweets matching the keywords WWG1WGA and Qanon. Data are scaled on a range of 0 to 100. The blu and red vertical lines represent, respectively, the structural break dates in the Google Trends and the two social media time series.

Let me be clear: at the moment the number of tweets and posts is small. Nevertheless, if the peak keeps growing…

Data are divided in the pre-pandemic period (before 2019-12-31), pandemic period (after 2019-12-31 but before 2020-03-15) and peak of interest period (after 2020-03-15)

The following table includes the most active Facebook entities (pages, public groups, or verified profiles) and Twitter accounts in the collected data sets.

Facebook pages/groups and Twitter accounts that have the published the highest number of posts matching the keywords QAnon or WWG1WGA (not necessarily “QAnon believers”)

In the following Google sheets are included some examples of the Faceook posts and tweets with the highest engagement (data are divided in the pre-pandemic period, that is before 2019-12-31, the pandemic period, after 2019-12-31 and before 2020-03-15, and peak of interest period, after 2020-03-15).

I’ll keep monitoring the situation: let’s see what happens!