- Antivirus software company founder John McAfee reportedly died by suicide in prison on Wednesday.
- QAnon believers quickly began suggesting conspiracy theories about his death.
- QAnon notably spread a similar theory when Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in 2019.
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Just minutes after the news broke that John McAfee reportedly died by suicide in a Spanish prison, QAnon conspiracy theorists baselessly suggested that the antivirus software pioneer died by other means.
Several top QAnon influencers on Telegram, some of whom have hundreds of thousands of followers on the far-right-favorite messaging platform, shared posts on Wednesday afternoon including the word “suicide” in quotes.
“Word on the street, only time will tell if this report was true or not,” an account with 61,000 subscribers shared on the app. Conspiracies alleging that McAfee had a “dead man’s switch,” or a device that activates when its owner dies, were also being shared online.
McAfee was imprisoned in Spain pending extradition on tax evasion charges before his death was reported on Wednesday.
A 2019 tweet from the antivirus software mogul’s verified Twitter account appeared to be emboldening some of these claims: “If I suicide myself, I didn’t,” the tweet said.
-John McAfee (@officialmcafee) November 30, 2019
QAnon, a wide-ranging, far-right conspiracy theory based on the false notion that former President Donald Trump had attempted to take down a “deep state” cabal of human traffickers and pedophiles, notably spread a similar theory when disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in 2019: “Epstein didn’t kill himself” eventually became a major online meme.
Hours after McAfee’s death, a similar phrase became a popular hashtag on Twitter.
-Eddie Blackadder HMP (@BlackersNot) June 23, 2021
-PhotianSacker1204 (@ByzCat) June 23, 2021
-Clara 🏳️⚧️⛤🇺🇸 (@GothGrilClara) June 23, 2021
Online discourse over the McAfee Associates software company founder also focused on an Instagram post from McAfee’s verified account on Wednesday afternoon – hours after his death was reported by Reuters – that showed the letter “Q.”
It was not immediately clear who had control of McAfee’s Instagram account. Instagram told Insider it was “looking into” the situation.
McAfee was an American software engineer who founded the anti-virus software company McAfee Associates and ran it until he resigned in 1994.
In 2012, Belize police considered him a “person of interest” in the murder of Gregory Viant Faull, a neighbor of his while he lived on the island. McAfee denied he was involved in the death and fled Belize.
McAfee also ran for president in the US as a libertarian in 2016 and 2020.
In March 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York indicted McAfee on charges of fraud and money laundering for running what they said was a fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme. Federal prosecutors Tennessee later charged him with tax evasion.
QAnon leaders weighing in on McAfee’s death comes as no surprise, as the conspiracy theorists frequently repackage news stories to promote their own beliefs. When a rare winter storm hit Texas this year, QAnon influencers claimed that Bill Gates was behind the inclement weather; QAnon hotshots were infuriated Lil Nas X made headlines for grinding with the devil in a music video and selling shoes that reportedly contained a drop of human blood.
Connor Perrett contributed reporting.
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