QAnon founder may have been identified thanks to machine learning

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With help from machine learning software, computer scientists may have unmasked the identity of Q, the founder of the QAnon movement. In a sprawling report published on Saturday, The New York Times shared the findings of two independent teams of forensic linguists who claim they’ve identified Paul Furber, a South African software developer who was one of the first to draw attention to the conspiracy theory, as the original writer behind Q. They say Arizona congressional candidate Ron Watkins also wrote under the pseudonym, first by collaborating with Furber and then later taking over the account when it eventually moved to post on his father’s 8chan message board.

The two teams of Swiss and French researchers used different methodologies to come to the same conclusion. The Swiss one, made up of two researchers from startup OrphAnalytics, used software to break down Q’s missives into patterns of three-character sequences. They then tracked how often those sequences repeated. The French team, meanwhile, trained an AI to look for patterns in Q’s writing. Both techniques broadly fall under an approach known as stylometry that looks to analyze writing in a way that is measurable, consistent and replicable. To avoid the possibility of confusing their respective programs, the teams limited their analysis to social media posts. Among all the other possible authors they put through the test, they say the writing of Furber and Watkins stood out the most for how similar it was that of Q’s.

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