The Guardian

How journalists should not cover an online conspiracy theory

The QAnon narrative shows the need for better practices in reporting on baseless claims and hoaxes. Here’s how the media can take action
People wearing QAnon T-shirts await Donald Trump’s arrival at a political rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, last week. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

At a certain point, it became impossible not to talk about QAnon.

For readers not yet familiar with the story, QAnon is a conspiracy theory centering on a figure calling themselves Q, who has for months made outrageous and unsubstantiated claims about and allegedly from within the Trump administration. Robert Muller, Hillary Clinton, and many others have figured into the pro-Trump narrative, to the extent that Q’s cryptic proclamations – which began on 4chan in late 2017 and later migrated to 8chan and parts of Reddit – could be described as a traditional narrative.

Over the last year, the has generated intermittent bursts of coverage. What had been a simmering narrative became a fireworks factory explosion on 1 August, when some attendees of a Trump campaign-style rally in Tampa, Florida,

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