One of Finland’s biggest papers Helsingin Sanomat wrote on Sunday, “The conspiracy theory movement ‘QAnon’ is building up in multiple countries.”
Why am I writing about this? Two weeks ago, I happened to be one of several people in Finland who noticed how rapidly the phenomenon was spreading in our country so I launched a discussion about it on social media. As the QAnon situation escalated, we had to move quickly. In just a few weeks, a group of us have organized a Discord Server which hosts dozens of researchers and specialists from both Finland and abroad. The community and its knowledge are expanding every day. From my experience working with this collective I have some insights about the QAnon phenomenon.
What is QAnon?
QAnon originates from the US and the image board 4chan. The Q phenomenon slash movement grows through social media and messaging platforms. The phenomenon manifests as a mixture of shared conspiracies that hundreds of thousands of people are spreading online every minute.
QAnon’s conspiracy theories sound wacky. That’s why its dangers went unnoticed for too long. The absurdity of QAnon myths allowed for them to be dismissed by governments and individuals alike. But as you all will probably find out from the news and social media, thousands of people have started to believe in a “global cabal of satanic pedophiles” run by the Clintons, Bill Gates, George Soros, the Bidens and an assortment of other celebrities.
Your first reaction might be to laugh a bit.
But then you start to see the gravity and severity of this phenomenon.
These three things might have been part of the reason why this “mass delusion” is spreading:
- For the past decade social media algorithms have been increasingly connecting high risk individuals to radicalizing material on a global scale.
- Trust in media, science and governmental institutions has dropped around the world partly as a side effect of the rise of political populism.
- The global pandemic has resulted in an enormous blow to our collective mental health, increased socioeconomic inequalities, and heightened individuals’ feelings of powerlessness.
What matters is this: The QAnon phenomenon is dangerous. And it has reached Finland.
The Situation in Finland October 20, 2020
At the moment it appears that Q is growing rapidly here. It seems the movement had been developing slowly in our country for the past year or two with only a handful of small social media accounts and groups.
But things have changed. Possibly in response to the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic that’s spreading in Finland. The concern is that people used much of their mental energy to cope with the first wave. Now as the second wave is hitting us, our psyches are vulnerable and, sadly, it seems that many Finns are going down the rabbit hole.
The epidemic has also given a lot of bored people time to go down these rabbit holes while stuck at home and looking at the internet all day. Unfortunately, QAnon is picking up speed. We’ve been following the development very closely these past weeks so I’ll share some observations with you.
The biggest Q related Facebook group is at about 6,000+ members as I write this (we have 5,5M population). Now the Q content sent by new followers has started to appear in countless other Facebook groups: yoga groups, wellness groups, religious groups, new age groups, etc. At the moment the angles of this content seem to be: anti-corona restrictions, children are sacred/save the children, anti-EU and anti-government.
While the conspiracies may seem absurd, many of them propagate dangerous ideals such as anti-vaccination, anti-5G, antisemitism, and anti-migrant rhetoric, all of which are a threat to society and democracy. There have also been cases of severe online harassment and violence by radicalized individuals.
Finnish media is finally starting to write about the QAnon mass delusion phenomenon
The media hasn’t addressed the phenomenon much. Just a few pieces have been published in some relatively small publications. I’m fairly confident this will change in a matter of days. I fear that the number of citizens falling into these rabbit holes will grow exponentially as the second wave of corona progresses. We predict that Facebook groups may be the biggest sources of disinformation here because Facebook seems hesitant to ban non-English groups. Or at least Finnish.
I’m terrified and baffled at the same time. It could be that we already have thousands of Finnish citizens who keep on posting US political memes. Just a few days ago I saw an old lady posting to Twitter “Hillary Clinton ja hänen sähköpostinsa” and “Tietääkö Biden olevansa elossa?”. That’s Hillary Clinton and her emails and Does Biden know he is Alive? in Finnish. It’s so out of context thousands of miles from US borders, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
It looks like Q is picking up speed across Europe with Germany leading with 200 000+ followers. I wonder if it’s the same for almost every country that has open internet access.
We’ve kickstarted an international collective of researchers, scientists and activists
QAnon is digital in nature and therefore it knows no borders so any adequate response must also be diverse and international as well.
We’ve established a multi-disciplinary grassroots collective to help address this problem. We’re composed of researchers, scientists, and experts from multiple fields and we are following the development of this dangerous phenomenon.
There are already dozens of us and the team is still growing every day. We have members from all sorts of fields: religious studies, visual propaganda, information warfare, journalism, data journalism, art history, network analysis, far-right research, populism, AI, deprogramming and more.
Our first task has been to rapidly distribute information about the phenomenon to citizens before they take the wrong step in Facebook groups. Education regarding this disinformation is crucial in preventing its spread. Right now we are planning to build a disinformation debunking database and we are also looking into launching a podcast about the Q phenomenon in Finland.
Now that we’ve created this team our next step is establishing preliminary communication channels with our respective government officials. It is crucial that policy makers are in communication with experts to assure that they can take effective measures to prevent the further spreading of this threat. The government likely cannot act as fast as a grassroots organization in creating a strike team and getting to work.
Fill in the form if you wish to join.
“Why should I join the Discord server of this Finnish random person?”
To be clear, I sparked a dialogue and helped to build this community but I am not its leader. We are a collective who have created a forum for sharing information and expertise. If you do what to know more about me though, here’s some sparknotes:
During the past years I’ve taken part in building multiple online communities from anti-bullying gaming Discords to groups that support journalists who are being harrassed to a 30 000 member Facebook group of Silakkaliike — Herring Movement — a sister movement of Italy’s Sardines movement I took part in starting in December 2019.
The importance of healthy communities
I want to end on a positive note. A healthy community can act as a shield against phenomena like this one. I feel that I have such a culture at my workplace for example. And I strongly believe that the positive networks my communities have built together from Discord gaming nights to mental health peer support channels and online drawing clubs are what keep us mentally and emotionally strong.
If you have skills or expertise you believe could help our international collective and you’d like to get involved please fill out this form and we’ll get in touch with you.
Johannes Koski, on behalf of our collective
Apply to our collective by filling this form.
Kollektiivi’s website was opened on October 27.
- HOPE not hate Charitable Trust 10/2020: QAnon in the UK — The growth of a movement
- New York Times Opinion October 19, 2020: What I Learned When QAnon Came for Me
- CNN October 18, 2020: He went down the QAnon rabbit hole for almost two years. Here’s how he got out
- The Guardian October 16, 2020: QAnon: a timeline of violence linked to the conspiracy theory
- BBC October 13, 2020: What’s behind the rise of QAnon in the UK?
- Financial Times 15 minute video October 10, 2020: Is QAnon a game gone wrong?
- News Now Finland October 7, 2020: Facebook bans QAnon sites including in Finland — but loopholes remain
- HOPE not hate Charitable Trust October, 2020: QAnon in the UK — The growth of a movement
- Reed Berkowitz October 1, 2020: A Game Designer’s Analysis Of QAnon
- Foreign Policy September 2, 2020: Germany Is Losing the Fight Against QAnon
- VICE July 29, 2020: QAnon Has Gone Global
- West Point Combating Terrorism Center July, 2020: The QAnon Conspiracy Theory: A Security Threat in the Making?
- The Atlantic May 15, 2020: The Prophecies of Q — American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase.
- QAnon Anonymous Podcast: Soundcloud, Spotify
- Reddit: r/QAnonCasualties, r/Qult_Headquarters, r/ReQovery
- Marc-André Argentino’s Twitter thread
- Helsingin Sanomat 30.10.2020: QAnon on salaliittoteorioista huuruisin — miten siihen uskotaan Suomessakin? (14 minuutin minidokumentti)
- Johanna Vehkoo / Yle Valheenpaljastaja 25.10.2020: Helsinkiläinen joogaharrastaja kertoo, miten joutui QAnonin pauloihin — salaliittoteoria kerää kannattajia valaistumisen retoriikan avulla
- Yle morning show October 22, 2020: Kohuttu QAnon-ilmiö on levinnyt Suomeenkin
- Takaisin Pasilaan podcast 22.10.2020: QAnon: Kaikkien salaliittoteorioiden äiti — Tämän takia siihen uskotaan
- Helsingin Sanomat October 18, 2020 (In Finnish): Kaikkien salaliittoteorioiden äiti leviää maailmalla
- Ilta-Sanomat 17.10.2020: QAnon-liike sai kasvusysäyksen pandemiasta — vielä on mysteeri, miksi pedofiliaa harrastavasta satanistisesta valtaeliitistä kertova salaliittoteoria pantiin alulle
- Ilta-Sanomat / Me Naiset October 16, 2020 (In Finnish): Suomalaisissa joogasaleissa leviää nyt huolestuttavan ääriliikkeen sanoma — tästä on kyse QAnonissa, johon hyvinvointivaikuttajat hurahtivat
- STT October 16, 2020 (In Finnish): QAnon on rantautunut vauhdilla Eurooppaan ja myös Suomeen — liike vetää puoleensa sekä uusnatseja että joogan harrastajia
- Kirkko ja Kaupunki September 17, 2020 (In Finnish): QAnon yhdistää vanhoja uskonnollisia myyttejä politiikkaan ja digiaikaan — ”Koronavirus räjäytti salaliittoteorioiden pankin”, sanoo apulaisprofessori Katja Valaskivi
- Iltalehti September 5, 2020: Kuka on Q? — Koronaviruspandemia on nostattanut QAnon-liikkeen maailmanlaajuiseksi ilmiöksi. Salaliittoteoriaan uskovat myös tuhannet suomalaiset.
- Seura August 15, 2020: Donald Trumpin tukema QAnon leviää maailmalla — Suomalaispoliitikkojakin kiinnostaa pedofiilimetsästyksellä ja pelottelulla ratsastaminen
- Seura July 7, 2020: Särkyviä perheitä ja katkeilevia keskusteluyhteyksiä — Näin salaliittoteoriat myrkyttävät ihmissuhteita Suomessa
- My observations from Finland (In Finnish) October 7, 2020: QAnon-ilmiö Suomessa — vaarallinen joukkoharha leviää nopeasti sosiaalisessa mediassa
- Johannes Koski’s Twitter and Janne Riiheläinen’s Twitter