The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump shares Twitter accounts linked to conspiracy theory QAnon

QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory, is fueled by right-wing outrage online and in the real world. (Video: Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)
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President Trump on Tuesday promoted two Twitter accounts that have shown support for the online conspiracy theory known as QAnon, amplifying the fringe accounts to his millions of followers.

The president tagged one user in a tweet about election security and retweeted another blaming Democrats for voter fraud.

“We should immediately pass Voter ID @Voteridplease to insure the safety and sanctity of our voting system. Also, Paper Ballots as backup (old fashioned but true!). Thank you!” Trump tweeted.

The user he tagged, @Voteridplease, has shared content related to QAnon. Trump then retweeted another account that shared a large graphic that read, “DEMOCRATS ARE THE TRUE ENEMIES OF AMERICA!” That user has also linked to QAnon material.

QAnon centers on the idea that an anonymous government official, or “Q,” has been secretly sharing messages and symbols that serve as evidence of a hidden plot to overthrow Trump. Those who believe in QAnon parse tweets, photos and other online content for hidden meanings, or “crumbs” — and signs that Trump knows and supports their cause.

Trump has retweeted content connected to QAnon in the past, but it’s unclear whether he knows that he’s doing so — Trump often retweets his followers.

But QAnon supporters are overjoyed when Trump does retweet, believing it’s evidence he supports their movement.

Almost immediately, Trump’s tweet this time caught the eye of some QAnon adherents on the anonymous online forum 8chan.

“Not the first time. Not the last time,” wrote one anonymous user in response to the president’s post.

Benjamin T. Decker, a former Harvard researcher and chief executive of Memetica, which investigates online disinformation, said, “Getting a tweet from the president demonstrates they have a wider reach than they actually have.”

Abby Ohlheiser contributed to this report.