A director in Citigroup’s information technology department has been placed on leave after he was identified as the operator of a prominent website dedicated to the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Last week, fact-checking website logically.ai named Jason Gelinas, a New Jersey resident, as the person who ran Qmap.pub, one of the most popular sites dedicated to the theory, which holds that US president Donald Trump is fighting a Satan-worshipping paedophile ring that has infiltrated the US government. The site has since been shut down.
Logically.ai also said that Mr Gelinas earned more than $3,000 a month by operating the site, which attracted 10m visitors a month.
“As outlined in our code of conduct, employees are required to disclose and obtain approvals for outside business activities,” Citigroup said in a statement.
Mr Gelinas said last week that QAnon was “a patriotic movement to save the country”, according to Bloomberg, which was also first to report that he had been placed on leave. He did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Qmap.pub collected and organised posts from various other sites attributed to Q, the purported government insider at the centre of the QAnon theory.
The site was the biggest driver of traffic to 8kun, the imageboard where Q’s messages are posted, representing 65 per cent of referrals to the site in July, according to SimilarWeb.
Aoife Gallagher, an analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based think-tank, said it was often floated as a central hub for QAnon discussions, especially for those unfamiliar with 8kun, a site formerly best known for its connection with far-right mass shootings.
The site's popularity stemmed from its multiple functions. In addition to compiling a list of Q’s posts and links to 8kun boards discussing their meaning, it featured a list of notable deaths, the “alignments” of “players in the game” — including Blackwater founder Erik Prince, Russian president Vladimir Putin and talk-show host Bill Maher — and a digital wall for “prayer petitions or patriotic intentions”. It also featured a companion app on Android, allowing QAnon adherents to receive updates on the move.
While Qmap was the most significant QAnon feeder site, a plethora of similar websites continue to operate.
Several candidates for public office have expressed support for the QAnon theory, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican nominee for a House of Representatives seat in Georgia. Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that Ms Greene was a “future Republican Star” and “a real WINNER!” after she secured her party’s nomination.
Social media companies, including Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, have blocked accounts propagating the QAnon theory, although it continues to spread through other accounts and online forums.
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