QAnon posted again in June 2022 after an almost two years hiatus. With its computational linguistic technology, OrphAnalytics can attribute these messages to the usual suspect Ron Watkins.
From October 2017 to December 2020, QAnon posted hundreds of messages, known as “Q Drops”, spreading conspiracy theories to an unprecedented scale and fueling the January 6th attacks on the US Capitol. After almost two years of silence, five Q Drops were posted in June 2022. In this new study, Swiss computational linguistic company OrphAnalytics confirms that far-right activist Ron Watkins is the most likely author of these new Q Drops – just like he was for most of QAnon’s previous messages.
In a previous study, OrphAnalytics, as well as French linguists from CNRS and the Ecole des Chartes, could already identify Ron Watkins as QAnon. Not only did Watkins' own writings match the stylistic signature of QAnon, but he was the administrator of the 8chan and 8kun forums where all Q Drops were posted from December 2017 to December 2020.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Watkins reappears as the author of the five QAnon messages posted between June 24 and 29, 2022 on 8kun. To obtain this new result, OrphAnalytics used its unique, patented technology relying on statistical analyses. It counts and compares short strings of characters to extract a given text’s individual signature. Its method has been used in several criminal affairs.
Just like in their previous study, OrphAnalytics’ experts used an exhaustive corpus of Q Drops. They compared it to writings from potential authors identified as such in several investigations or mentioned by QAnon supporters. To refine their results, they augmented their corpus with Watkins’ recent writings as a competitor in Arizona's 2022 Republican primary race.
Despite the brevity of QAnon's latest Q Drops – it amounts to just about 600 characters spread over five short messages – OrphAnalytics’ experts are confident in their result. “We played with several parameters and excluded parts of the corpus, but we consistently get a robust signal showing Watkins as the author,” says OrphAnalytics’ CEO Claude-Alain Roten.
During recent meetings, former US president and potential presidential 2024 candidate Donald Trump has expressed strong support for QAnon conspiracies. “QAnon might come back on the center of the stage through Mr. Trump’s support. In such a context, we were interested to know whether the presumed author was still in control of his creature,” says Roten.
A white paper of this study is available here: LatestQdrops.pdf
This study has been prepared in collaboration with journalist Amit Juillard of the Swiss media Blick. Two articles were published by Blick on October 16, 2022, one in French, the other in German:
Amit Juillard, Qui se cache derrière les derniers messages de QAnon?, Blick, October 16 2022.
- Amit Juillard, Wer steckt hinter den letzten Nachrichten von QAnon?, Blick, October 16 2022.
Other Press Articles
David D. Kirkpatrick, Who Is Behind QAnon? Linguistic Detectives Find Fingerprints, The New York Times, February 19 2022. Réserved for subscribers.
- Olivier Hertel, De Hitler à QAnon, comment ils ont été trahis par leurs écrits, Le Point, September 25 2022. Réserved for subscribers.