Russian-backed organizations boost Qanon conspiracy theories

Posting ID 126736
Date Added: 08/26/2020 12:22 AM EDT
Date Modified: 08/26/2020 12:22 AM EDT
E-ISAC Staff



Amidst Russia’s attempts to interfere/influence the 2020 US elections, Russian-backed organizations are providing a boost to Qanon conspiracy theories online. There is also concern that Russia may similarly boost/influence the “Boogaloo” movement. Both present concerns due to the potential for election disruption, additional violence during ongoing protests, and threats to the electric grid.


Impact Statement/Analysis:

Academic researchers have identified multiple and increasing instances over the past few months where social media accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency (informally known as the “troll factory”), sending a high volume of posts tagged with Qanon associated phrases as well as reposting statements produced by Qanon adherents.


Russian government-backed media outlets RT and Sputnik have increased coverage of Qanon, painting it in a mostly legitimate light. This coincides with Russia’s coverage of the 2016 US election which included derogatory reporting on most mainstream candidates and significant boosting of fringe candidates; most likely with the goal of creating disruption.


Signal boosting existing extremist movements is a preferred strategy for Russia because it provides a layer of separation, deniability, and can have greater impact because the messaging is not hindered by language and cultural barriers.


Qanon, which began sometime in 2017 in smaller internet message boards and has since picked up a global following across social media; is a conspiracy theory alleging that celebrities, politicians, and business leaders are engaged in a global conspiracy to conduct child trafficking, harvesting of body parts, and distracting the public from their actions. The broad strokes of the conspiracy theory appear to be a modern reprint of older anti-Semitic conspiracy theories such as the “Protocols of Zion” and “Blood Libel”.


Also of concern in this manner are the “Boogaloo” movement. Consisting of a far right ideology that sees a coming Civil War (the name is taken from an 80s movie sequel, in the context of wanting a second Civil War) along racial lines, and are heavily into accumulating firearms and other weapons. Several Boogaloo members have been arrested recently, for instances including several murders amidst the ongoing protests as well as planning to blow up a power substation near Las Vegas.


At this time, we have no information that Russian organizations have provided similar signal boosting to Boogaloo associated social media, however; the Boogaloo movement has made significant effort to hide their trail online after being mostly blocked from Facebook. This is an area of concern as their ideology and willingness to escalate violence makes them prime targets for Russian influence operations. 


Additionally, because Russia conducted influence operations with and through the National Rifle Association, the groundwork is already laid on Russia’s side for targeting people based on Second Amendment issues of which many are counted among the Boogaloos.


Category Type:
Cyber Security, Physical Security
TLP - White
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