Rumble, a haven for QAnon supporters, gains traction among conservatives

In many ways, the platform is serving as a "bridge to extremism," a media watchdog says

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published May 6, 2023 6:00AM (EDT)

Supporters of President Donald Trump hold up their phones with messages referring to the QAnon conspiracy theory at a campaign rally at Las Vegas Convention Center on February 21, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Supporters of President Donald Trump hold up their phones with messages referring to the QAnon conspiracy theory at a campaign rally at Las Vegas Convention Center on February 21, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

At least 27 QAnon-supporting channels have found a home on Rumble – a video-sharing platform that is becoming more mainstream among conservatives, which brands itself as a space that "defends free speech and the right to think differently."

Videos from QAnon channels featuring content promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory appeared on Rumble's leaderboard every day between Feb. 1 and April 30 — a total of 603 times, according to a new study by Media Matters.

The Toronto-based company, which has received financial backing from billionaire investor Peter Thiel and Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, has grown in popularity among controversial right-wing figures and offered a space for users to share conspiracy theories and "problematic" content that is otherwise banned on mainstream social media platforms.

"Rumble's growing popularity is going to enable more people to become introduced to problematic content," Katie McCarthy, an investigative researcher with the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, told Salon. "Rumble's algorithm, unfortunately, actively amplifies this content because that content makes a lot of money for the platform."

While the platform's terms of service do prohibit content that is antisemitic or racist in nature, McCarthy said, the site still continues to promote such videos and makes it easy for users to access violent and hateful content.

In many ways, the platform is serving as a "bridge to extremism," Kayla Gogarty, deputy research director at Media Matters, told Salon.

Last month, former Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who is now the CEO of Donald Trump's social media platform Truth Social, appeared on "X22 Report," which Media Matters describes as a QAnon show and Nunes admitted to learning about through Rumble.

There's now a growing push from conservatives encouraging social media users to move to Rumble as voices on the right have falsely claimed for years that social media companies are biased against them, Gogarty added. The video-sharing platform has branded itself as a "neutral" space that is trying "to take on Big Tech."

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"So they're using some of this rhetoric that we've seen being pushed by conservatives and right-wing figures and other extremists already," Gogarty said. "They're kind of repurposing that rhetoric."

Rumble's leaderboard, which promotes the most liked videos, often shares QAnon-related influencers and channels. Videos from QAnon channels appeared in the top 10 spots of the leaderboard 86 of the 89 days studied, or 97% of the days studied, according to Media Matters.

On top of this, QAnon channels were the most-liked video on Rumble 23 days during the time frame studied. QAnon channels' videos were also among the top three most-liked videos at least 116 times and the top 5 most-liked videos at least 177 times, Media Matters found.

"Rumble has definitely emerged as QAnon's video-sharing platform of choice," McCarthy said, adding that the platform has also invited "white supremacist content." "That's a problem because it's allowing for that sort of cross-pollination between different ideologies and views."

"Rumble has definitely emerged as QAnon's video-sharing platform of choice."

Rumble's co-founder and CEO Chis Pavlovski has promoted the platform as an alternative outlet to Youtube that is "immune from cancel culture," but instead the platform has served as a space for controversial figures like Andrew Tate to share content.

Following his broad de-platforming in August 2022, Tate was recruited to join Rumble, where he continued to push out violent and misogynistic content. The infamous social media influencer and former kickboxer "spent months in a Romanian jail on suspicion of organized crime and human trafficking" after being "initially detained in late December," according to the Associated Press. His house arrest was recently "extended for another 30 days," the BBC reported in April.

Prior to his arrest, Tate was banned from Meta, TikTok and YouTube, leading Rumble to extend an invite to Tate and also allowing others like Alex Jones, who spread conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook massacre, and Steve Bannon, who loudly pushed for the results of the 2020 election to be overturned, to use the platform to monetize their videos.

"As YouTube and other sites have begun enforcing all these rules about hate and harassment, Rumble is touting itself as a place where you don't have to worry about all that 'woke criticism'," Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, told Salon. "The fact that they're not doing content moderation is the key to all of this because conservatives wrongly think they're being targeted on other sites. So Rumble is claiming the mantle as a place for conservatives to speak, but really what it's become is a haven for haters."

Now, Rumble is also becoming more mainstream among conservatives. Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Ronna McDaniel recently revealed that the RNC would exclusively livestream the GOP's first 2024 presidential primary debate on Rumble.

"For the first time ever, we're going to live stream on Rumble," McDaniel said last month. "We're getting away from Big Tech; YouTube's owned by Google. We're going to have an RNC channel on Rumble. And then the Young Americas Foundation, which is run by Scott Walker, to really reach out to young voters. They're based in Wisconsin, so they're going to be a partner, as well."

While Rumble's mission has been focused "to take on Big Tech" and "defend free speech," the platform has functioned as an engine for misinformation and promoted dangerous, violent content.

In 2020, a man derailed a train near a hospital ship docked at a port in Los Angeles that was treating COVID-19 patients, according to Media Matters. The man told investigators that he believed the hospital ship "was part of a government conspiracy to bring healthy 'open-minded' people onto the ship and 'get rid of them'" and described "reading internet materials related to conspiracy groups, such as 'X22 Report,'" which joined Rumble in 2020 after being banned from YouTube.

Several conspiracy theorists have found a home on Rumble, "which does not have any policies explicitly prohibiting QAnon content," according to Media Matters.

Now, with mainstream Republicans promoting Rumble, more people will be at risk of being exposed to extremist content and may even "potentially fall further down the rabbit hole" of viewing problematic content, McCarthy said.

"The sort of conspiratorial views like QAnon, in particular, have inspired real acts of violence and other criminal activity," she said. "They're a threat to our democracy because their beliefs are undermining trust in our democratic institutions."

"The sort of conspiratorial views like QAnon, in particular, have inspired real acts of violence and other criminal activity."

Aside from the 27 QAnon channels on Rumble, the platform's leaderboard also showcased 19 other channels that are linked to QAnon, per Media Matters. These channels contributed 348 videos to the leaderboard over 88 of the 89 days they analyzed.

One of these channels, "On the Fringe," which features the QAnon slogan in its Truth Social account bio, appeared on the leaderboard 85 times in the past three months, with many videos promoting conspiracy theories surrounding the "deep state" and "war," according to Media Matters.

"I think it's really unfortunate because what the RNC is doing is sanctioning a site that's filled with QAnon content and hate content, and it's actually bringing their audience, people who might not be aware of Rumble, who will watch the debates, into exposure to all that nasty stuff," Beirich said. "And that has the potential of radicalizing people into extremist ideas."

In addition to Rumble's growing popularity among conservatives, Twitter is also becoming a space rife with misinformation and QAnon-related conspiracy theories, Gogarty added. Since Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter, several QAnon accounts have been reinstated and even received verification.

This could function as another way for Rumble to promote its content as users are able to share links to the platform.

"When you have people that are being introduced to different conspiratorial content, extremist content, it further erodes public trust in our institutions and in our democracy," McCarthy said.

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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Devin Nunes Donald Trump Extremism Media Matters Peter Thiel Qanon Rumble Social Media Truth Social