Tucker Carlson needs some new researchers.
“We spent all day trying to locate the famous QAnon, which in the end we learned is not even a website,” Carlson, the host of the highest-rated program in U.S. cable news history, told millions of viewers on Tuesday night. “If it’s out there, we could not find it.”
Carlson made the comment during a segment in which he claimed the cult, which believes that former President Donald Trump is secretly working to uncover a global satanic child sex trafficking ring, and has ensnared millions of Americans, is a hoax made up by the liberal media. And despite repeatedly referencing QAnon on his show in recent weeks, Carlson’s crack squad of researchers apparently couldn’t find any evidence it existed online.
It’s true the website QAnon.com doesn’t exist, and neither does QAnon.net or Qanon.org.
But a Google search for “QAnon” returns just shy of 25 million related webpages, and many of them would have pointed Carlson and his team in the direction of 8kun, the website where the pseudonymous leader of the cult, known only as Q, has posted almost 5,000 messages.
Or to one of the dozens of websites that are trying to cash in on QAnon’s popularity by cataloging those posts.
Facebook and Twitter have removed a lot of the major QAnon accounts in recent months, but maybe Carlson’s team could have looked a little further, to say Telegram, which has become a hive of QAnon activity, and some of the biggest QAnon channels have hundreds of thousands of followers.
Or what about Gab, the far-right social network that has also become a major hub for QAnon influencers kicked off other platforms? It’s not like Carlson could say he doesn’t know about the platform, since he hosted its CEO on his show in 2017, defending it as a place for “people who just believe in free speech.”
Carlson’s researchers also seemed to ignore Parler, where Carlson has a verified account — though he’s yet to post anything.
Parler, which has risen from the dead in recent weeks after being de-platformed for helping coordinate the Capitol riots, became a cesspit of QAnon activity in the weeks leading up to the insurrection. Many of major QAnon accounts have returned to the site after the company found new servers to host the platform.
But maybe the easiest thing for Carlson to do would have been to look at his own television segments on YouTube, where the video of him denouncing QAnon as a liberal media hoax is already posted, next to a video from last month in which he defended QAnon, mocking statements from Democratic lawmakers who said the cult was a major threat to the U.S.
He could also find videos from Fox News colleagues like Jesse Watters, Greg Gutfeld, Laura Inghram, and the hosts of “Fox & Friends,” who have all defended QAnon or given a platform to QAnon supporters.
Indeed YouTube was one of the primary vectors through which QAnon supporters have been radicalized. Numerous family members of QAnon believers told VICE News how they watched their loved ones fall down the rabbit hole by watching an endless stream of videos on the platform.
YouTube tried to address this problem by altering its algorithm in 2019 to recommend fewer extremist videos, but a new report from Pendulum, a company that tracks misinformation on YouTube, suggests this change had little impact on the popularity of QAnon videos.
According to the report, online QAnon channels received over 1 billion views on their videos in 2020, including 900 million on YouTube alone — a rise of 38% over 2019.
A YouTube spokesperson disputed Pendulum’s figures, and told VICE News they “do not accurately reflect what is popular or watched on YouTube.”
But the company did not respond to questions about whether its delay in taking action against QAnon accounts gave those channels time to set up on alternative platforms.
Facebook and Twitter began cracking down on QAnon accounts in August 2020, though at that point, the damage had been done. But YouTube delayed even further.When it finally acted in October 2020, taking down 91,000 videos and removing 285 of the largest channels, views of QAnon videos dropped by over half, from 2.7 million daily views for the 30 days preceding the crackdown to 1.3 million after, according to Pendulum’s data.
But just like QAnon Facebook groups that were able to migrate en masse to other platforms when the social media company shut them down, YouTube’s QAnon creators were able to do the same.
There’s been a dramatic spike in views of QAnon videos on fringe platforms like Bitchute and Rumble, which have seen huge increases in viewership in recent months, according to the Pendulum report. There was a particularly significant spike in the wake of the Capitol riots.
Though, obviously, Tucker Carlson’s researchers didn’t find those sites either.