Who is behind QAnon? Computer scientists identify two men as likely authors of viral conspiracy movement

Investigators have long suspected Ron Watkins and Paul Furber are behind conspiracy

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Monday 21 February 2022 04:22 GMT
CNN goes inside meeting of QAnon supporters

Two ground-breaking linguistic studies have shed further light on who might be behind the influential QAnon conspiracy movement.

Two teams of researchers, one from the Swiss startup OrphAnalytics, and another from French computational linguists Florian Cafiero and Jean-Baptiste Camps, used artificial intelligence and linguistic analysis software to study texts containing more than 100,000 words written by Q, an anonymous internet figure claiming to be a highly placed military-political insider.

Their results back up what researchers and journalists have long believed about the people behind the conspiracy leader: that South African software developer Paul Furber and message board operator (and now congressional candidate) Ron Watkins are most likely the men behind Q.

Both teams believe their predictions are more than 90 per cent accurate. The researchers also compared texts from Donald Trump and his family, as well as other Q boosters like former national security adviser Michael Flynn and political consultant Roger Stone, but found that Mr Watkins and Mr Furber were the most likely culprits based on their findings.

Both men, speaking on Saturday with The New York Times, which reported on the studies, denied being Q.

Mr Furber claimed that rather than being Q, he was merely deeply influenced by QAnon and became an early promoter of the figure’s work on online messageboards.

“We all started talking like him,” Mr Furber told the Times of the shadowy presence online, who “took over our lives, literally”.

From Q’s first posts in 2017, its audience continued to grow, though it’s style changed markedly towards Ron Watkins’s signature around 2018, according to the researchers, a period when Mr Furber said Q was “hijacked”. At this time, QAnon’s posts began exclusively appeared on a messageboard called 8chan, run by Mr Watkins and his father Jim.

Investigators have long believed that Mr Watkins and Mr Furber were key figures behind QAnon. Reporters from NBC News, Gimlet Media’s Reply All, and HBO’s documentary Q: Into the Storm, have also suggested the pair could be Q, a figure who retains millions of followers despite not posting since December 2020.

Last April, The Independent reported exclusive new details that the Watkins family spent time in Mukilteo, Washington, before going overseas, where a young Ron Watkins was described as a loner with few friends.

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