With the help of machine learning software, computer scientists may have unmasked the identity of Q, the founder of the QAnon movement. In an extensive report published on Saturday, shared the findings of two independent teams of forensic linguists who claim to have identified Paul Furber, a South African software developer who was one of the first to bring attention to the conspiracy theory, as the original writer behind Q. They say that the Arizona congressional candidate Ron Watkins also wrote under the pseudonym, first collaborating with Furber and later taking over the account when he finally switched to posting on his father’s 8chan message board.
The two teams of Swiss and French researchers used different methodologies to reach the same conclusion. The Swiss, formed by two researchers from the startup , used software to decompose Q’s missives into patterns of three-character sequences. They then tracked how often these sequences repeated. The French team, meanwhile, trained an AI to look for patterns in Q writing. Both techniques largely fall under an approach known as stylometry that seeks to analyze writing in a measurable, consistent and replicable way. To avoid the possibility of confusing their respective shows, the teams limited their analysis to social media posts. Among all the other possible authors they tested, they say that Furber and Watkins’ writing stood out the most for being similar to Q’s.
And they are confident in that identification. The French team formed by computer linguists Florian Cafiero and Jean-Baptiste Camps told The times their software correctly identified Furber’s writing in 98% of tests and Watkins’ writing in 99%. “At first, most of the text is by Furber,” Cafiero said. “But Ron Watkins’ subscription increased during the first few months as Paul Furber declined and then dropped completely.”
people already identify Harry Potter author JK Rowling as the secret writer of Cuckoo’s Call, a 2013 crime fiction novel that Rowling wrote under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. More broadly, law enforcement agencies have successfully used stylometry in a variety of criminal cases, including by the FBI to show that Ted Kaczynski was the Unabomber.
specialists The times spoke – including Professor Patrick Juola, the computer scientist who identified Rowling as the author of Cuckoo’s Call – said they found the findings credible and persuasive. “What’s really powerful is the fact that both of these two independent analyzes showed the same general pattern,” said Juola.
Both Furber and Watkins deny writing any of Q’s messages. “I’m not Q,” said the latter. The times. Furber, meanwhile, said he was influenced by Q’s posts to change the style of his prose, a claim that linguistic experts said the post was “imlausible”. It’s also worth mentioning the fact that the review included Furber’s tweets dating back to the early days of Q’s existence.
What happens next is unclear. The researchers who worked on the identification told The times they hope that unmasking Q will loosen QAnon’s hold on people. Spreading like wildfire on social media, the conspiracy theory has had a profound effect on politics in the US and other parts of the world. And while Q hasn’t posted a new message since late 2020, that hasn’t dampened people’s enthusiasm for “deep state” conspiracies and their involvement in their lives.
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