QAnon videos get millions of views on TikTok as Trump embraces conspiracy theory

QAnon conspiracy theorist videos with thinly veiled hashtags are driving millions of views on TikTok ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

A review conducted by NBC News found users posting videos with emojis and small word variations in hashtags to circumvent QAnon hashtag bans, drawing attention to the conspiracy theory that helped fuel the January 6 Capitol uprising.

TikTok removed some videos, all of which were sent to the company in an NBC News investigation, but many QAnon videos and hashtags remained on the platform.

The findings come as former President Donald Trump ramps up his public support for the conspiracy theory. In recent weeks, Trump has used QAnon’s slogan on his social media app Truth Social and reposted messages from Q, the anonymous account that sometimes posts messages interpreted by QAnon followers. At a rally on Saturday, he spoke to a soundtrack identical to a song known as a QAnon theme song, and the crowd held up several fingers in response. QAnon’s slogan is “Where we go one, we all go.”

On TikTok, users have added emojis such as the American flag to QAnon hashtags such as “#Trusttheplan”, which were banned from the app from July 2020. The changed version of the hashtag has 1.9 million views, according to the app.

The top video on the hashtag — one of dozens associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory — is explicitly pro-QAnon and was posted just five days ago. ‘Trust the plan, Q! Still don’t believe it? Pay attention,” the videographer says, before a voice reads out a Q post with the letter Q and flashes a GIF of Trump on the screen.

The user who posted the video is a QAnon influencer who is doing well in the app. He has 23,000 followers and posts numerous videos related to QAnon almost every day. One video posted on Tuesday had already been viewed more than 50,000 times by early afternoon. In the video, a Q flashes on the screen as the creator puts forward a conspiracy theory about the death of software entrepreneur John McAfee.

Other QAnon hashtags on the platform include variations of #Adrenochrome, which is also banned on the platform. QAnon believers falsely claim that global elites harvest a substance called adrenochrome from children.

Creators who posted the adrenochrome videos used variations of hashtags that included blood emojis and misspellings of adrenochrome to evade TikTok’s attempts to limit conversation around the term. A misspelled version of the hashtag has 2 million views, according to the platform. In a May video with more than 14,000 likes from a user with more than 20,000 followers, it reads “adrenochrome exposed” as actors joke on talk shows about their cosmetic procedures, with one actor joking that he sucks baby blood to Wendy Williams. . More text in the video reads: “They disguise it as a joke…but it’s clear as day.”

The videos and hashtags, many of which have significant viewership, raise questions about TikTok’s efforts to curb misinformation on the platform as the US enters the mid-term election season.

In July 2020, TikTok tried to address the growth of QAnon hashtags on their platform by banning a selection of them. In October 2020, the company said it was extending the ban to all videos on the platform that put forward ideas from the conspiracy theory movement.

Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, TikTok said it will fight disinformation on its platform. In a blog post published Aug. 17, Eric Han, TikTok’s head of security in the US, wrote: “TikTok has a long-standing policy of disallowing paid political advertising, and our Community Guidelines prohibit content, including electoral misinformation, harassment, including those targeting elections, workers – hateful behavior and violent extremism.”

A TikTok spokesperson said in an email that the company has removed the videos following an investigation by NBC News.

“We are removing this content because QAnon promotions violate our policy on harmful disinformation,” the spokesperson wrote. “We continue to take steps to make this content harder to find through searches and hashtags by redirecting the associated terms to our Community Guidelines. We regularly update our protections with spelling errors and new phrases as we work to make TikTok a safe and authentic place for our community.”