The media's dilemma: How to cover conspiracy theorists

For months, a man calling himself Bill Smith obsessed over the YouTube search rankings for QAnon, where his conspiracy-fuelled videos competed with those made by other believers for the top few slots on the list of results.

Last Wednesday, Mr Smith was dethroned by a rush of mainstream outlets, which each produced their own videos explaining the conspiracy theory after its existence suddenly went viral. In a livestream to 45,000 YouTube subscribers, Mr Smith looked at his diminished status - and sounded ecstatic. "I haven't been this happy in a very long time," he said. "CNN, NBC News, MSNBC, PBS News Hour, Washington Post, MSNBC, those are our new QAnon reporters!"

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2018, with the headline 'The media's dilemma: How to cover conspiracy theorists'. Print Edition | Subscribe