Supporters of Donald Trump, August 15 in Portland, with a “Q” flag of the QAnon movement.
Abigail Dollins / Statesman Day / SIPA
A little more is known about the mysterious figure who converted millions of Americans to the QAnon conspiracy theory, and galvanized Donald Trump's followers who stormed the Capitol.
Behind "Q", the anonymous behind the movement, are in fact hiding two people, say experts from a Swiss start-up.
OrphAnalytics, which first developed algorithms to chase away plagiarism but which has since extended its field of expertise, put them to work in an attempt to unravel the secret of “QAnon”.
"The conclusions are that we have two different authors at two different periods", explains the head of the start-up Claude-Alain Roten, who lives in the west of Switzerland, whose address he wishes to keep secret for obvious security reasons.
"The thousands of cryptic messages are made by two people"
The conspiracy movement was born in October 2017 on the online forum 4Chan - and later 8Kun - and fed on messages called "Q-drops", baselessly claiming that Donald Trump was waging a secret war against a clique of pedophile Democrats and worshipers of Satan.
Treated with disdain at first, QAnon has grown into a powerful movement.
For Claude-Alain Roten, there is no doubt that the thousands of cryptic messages are made by two people.
“The approach we use is stylometry, but the one we focused on is stylometry of sequences, strings of characters.
We are not trying to get out of properties on linguistic units like words or turns of sentences or syntax.
We are looking for information on the characteristics that characterize a string of characters, ”explains the head of OrphAnalytics.
Analyzes of character strings
The Swiss start-up used the statistics of the appearance of character strings to determine the authors of the texts.
"The difference in the signal is strong enough to leave little doubt about the change of author," also said a report released last month by the company.
For Florian Cafiero, CNRS researcher specializing in quantitative linguistics, the work of the Swiss on QAnon "seems convincing".
If stylometry has been around for a long time, it has been revolutionized - like many other fields - by the advent of machines capable of processing phenomenal amounts of data.
"As with all technology, there is a bright side and a dark side"
For Claude Alain Roten, his approach based on pure statistical analysis makes it possible to remain neutral where context and hypotheses are generally pillars of text analysis.
Florian Cafiero believes that this new way of approaching a proven technique and applying it to the legal process can help "avoid mistakes".
But he also expresses his fear that this type of technology will allow whistleblowers to be unmasked, for example.
“As with all technology there is a bright side and a dark side”, recognizes Claude-Alain Roten, while emphasizing the strict ethical rules that his company applies in order to avoid “that our approach to sequence stylometry does not be used to serve the dark side ”.
OrphAnalytics has already hit the headlines by throwing itself into the fray over the Elena Ferrante affair, which rocked the literary world in Italy, claiming that the pseudonym author was in fact an author: Domenico Starnone.
The start-up, born in 2014, would also have been involved in criminal investigations, such as the case of the murder of little Gregory Villemin in France, according to the press.
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