In this study, we empirically examine conspiracies on the end-to-end encrypted instant messaging platform Telegram. Using the theoretical framework of dark social movements, we provide a first look at conspiratorial topics disseminated by right-wing extremists in Canada. This study examines conspiracies related to the Great Reset, Great Awakening, United Nations, technology, China, deep state, COVID-19, Islamophobia, and the New World Order. To conduct our study, we downloaded all 270,806 posts available across 21 Telegram channels selected based on their affiliation and/or association with the far-right in Canada. Using mixed-methods entailing traditional content analysis of sampled data as well as a digital investigation of the overall dataset, our findings illustrate a tendency to delegitimize the legitimate with seven conspiratorial topics and trends related to COVID-19, the interconnected nature of conspiracies, technology (5G Network, QR Codes, etc.), the Great Awakening, the deep state and political polarization, children-saving, and critical race and/or religion. We discuss how dark social movements on Telegram orbit around increasingly mainstream conspiracies that enable the far-right to coordinate activities, share similar ideas, and troll opponents.
Brazilian supporters of Bolsonaro turned protests about the recent election to violence as they overtook the federal government buildings, an event reminiscent of the events of January 6th in America’s capital. The protesters were fuelled by disinformation and conspiracy theories of a rigged election, spouted by social media, the former president himself, and American right-wing influencers such as Steve Bannon. These events, including Jan 6th, and the Canadian Convoy movement reveal how powerful conspiracy theories can be in creating social movements of self declared “patriots” determined to “save” their country, and in doing so define who are citizens of their nations.