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The Information Ecosystem of Conspiracy Theory: Examining the QAnon Narrative on Facebook
There has been concern about the proliferation of the “QAnon” conspiracy theory on Facebook, but little is known about how its misleading narrative propagated on the world’s largest social media platform. Thus, the present research analyzed content generated by 2,813 Facebook pages and groups that contributed to promoting the conspiracy narrative between 2017 and 2020. The result demonstrated that activities of QAnon pages and groups started a significant surge months before the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. We found that these pages and groups increasingly relied on internal sources, i.e., Facebook accounts or their content on the platform, while their dependence on external information sources decreased continuously since 2017. It was also found that QAnon posts based on the Facebook internal sources attracted significantly more shares and comments compared with other QAnon posts. These findings suggest that QAnon pages and groups increasingly isolated themselves from sources outside Facebook while having more internal interactions within the platform, and the endogenous creation and circulation of disinformation might play a significant role in boosting the influence of the misleading narrative within Facebook. The findings imply that the efforts to tackle disinformation on social media should target not only the cross-platform infiltration of falsehood but also the intra-platform production and propagation of disinformation.