Fiction not facts – QAnon and the threat of corporate conspiracies

Is the coronavirus merely an invention of the pharmaceutical lobby or is it perhaps triggered by 5G technology? Conspiracy theories have not only become more prominent in the public eye in view of the corona pandemic, but are also finding a growing number of followers. Especially, the conspiracy movement QAnon is becoming increasingly popular in Germany as well. At the same time QAnon is a special case among the conspiracy myths: QAnon is not only extremely “successful”, the movement can also be seen as an example of a new dimension of digital opinion making and mobilisation, as it makes use of the functional mechanisms of the social web in a highly elaborated manner. In this article we explain what the QAnon movement is, how it works and what threats and implications can be derived from it for economy and politics. For one thing is clear: online movements can only be against a fictional conspiracy, but also against real companies, institutions and individuals.

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What is Social Media Warfare?

Social media as a weapon in the information age

It is impossible to imagine today’s information age without social media. Social media penetrates our everyday life, determines our private communication and companies or institutions present themselves in social web. The advantages are pretty obvious. Due to the way social media works, everyone – no matter if private person, politician or company – can achieve an enormous reach at low cost. Traditional gatekeepers like editorial offices are no longer needed, and everyone has the opportunity to distribute information with their own framing. This makes it easy to built up a digital reputation, increase sales or get better result in political election.

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What is disinformation?

Social media as a blessing and a curse

Social media has become increasingly popular over the last decade, connecting people from all over the world and opening up new communication channels for individuals and companies alike. In contrast to all the positive aspects, social media can also serve as an instrument for manipulating public opinion – for example, by spreading deliberate false reports or distorting the presentation of genuine information. As a result of the supposed anonymity on the Internet and the target group-oriented play-out, false information spread much faster in social media than in the established media – and this without the authors and creators having to take (“legal”) responsibility for it.

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