The bizarre QAnon conspiracy theory that has captured the imagination (and apparel budget) of some reality-challenged Trump supporters is starting to lose its footing. On Wednesday afternoon, Reddit shut down /r/greatawakening, the main subreddit used by Q followers to piece together clues, or “breadcrumbs,” left by the strange internet prophet they follow. At the time the board was closed, it boasted more than 54,000 followers, or “patriots” in Q speak. At least six other Q subreddits were also banned on Wednesday, including r/QProofs, r/QAnon_Serious, r/The_GreatAwakening, r/biblicalQ, and r/thestorm, and others.
Since October 2017, a mysterious online character who goes by the name Q has been posting strange missives to 4chan, the notorious and shady message board where many of the most insidious memes and harassment campaigns on the web are hatched, detailing a plot from within the White House to overthrow a cabal of global elites. According to Q, special counsel Robert Mueller is actually working on behalf of Trump to expose a conspiracy and pedophile ring from within the Democratic Party. Q’s posts come in the form of lyrical, disjointed warnings, clues, and questions. On Tuesday, for example, Q posted: “Rats running. Timing is everything. Enjoy the show.”
Though it’s still not clear who Q is, and whether the strange online personality has a particular agenda behind attracting thousands of diehard fans, what is clear is that the conspiracy theory is largely dependent on its online community. And Reddit, in particular the Great Awakening board, has been one of the main trading posts for piecing together Q’s clues and for drumming up support and solidarity among the conspiracy theory’s followers. A Reddit spokesperson confirmed the shuttering to Slate in an email, noting that, “as of September 12, r/greatawakening has been banned due to repeated violations of the terms of our content policy.” Reddit prohibits activity that “incites violence, disseminates personal information, or harasses,” which can result in a user or a whole community in getting banned, the spokesperson said.
Reddit banned another Q-related message board in March for “content that encourages or incites violence and the posting of personal and confidential information” a Reddit spokesperson told the Daily Dot at the time. On Tuesday, the website banned three other message boards associated with the fringe right—r/milliondollarextreme, r/milliondollarextreme2, and r/billionshekelsupreme—according to BuzzFeed. The /r/milliondollarextreme community was reportedly home to racist, anti-Semitic, and transphobic postings and had tens of thousands of followers.
More of the Q conversation may now port over to Facebook, where one of the largest communities has courted more than 49,000 members. But the big difference between Facebook and Reddit is that on Reddit users can be anonymous. Facebook has a real name policy, which, while possible to circumvent, makes discussing something as implausible and revisionist as Q with any sincerity a riskier endeavor in the case one’s friends or coworkers see the activity.
Q adherents don’t seem too bent out of shape about the removal of one of their main boards. On another subreddit dedicated to the discussion of banned boards, some Q enthusiasts seem to think that this is all part of the plan: “Q was talking about some BIG THING happening soon, yesterday. Guess he was off by a day. Q KNEW, THOUGH, THAT PROVES HE’S REAL AND THAT MEANS THE DEEP STATE PEDOPHILE CABAL IS REAL!”