Jason Gelinas, an employee at Citigroup Inc., has been placed on paid leave pending an internal investigation after he was identified as the operator of the most prominent website dedicated to the QAnon conspiracy theory, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Gelinas, who lives in New Jersey, was identified Sept. 10 as the operator of the website QMap.pup and its associated mobile apps by the fact-checking site Logically.ai. Since then, the website has shut down and now simply provides links to alternative websites offering information on the QAnon conspiracy.
Gelinas earned over $3,000 a month on a crowd-funded Patreon site dedicated to supporting the QAnon site, which he said helped cover the monthly operating costs.
“As outlined in our Code of Conduct, employees are required to disclose and obtain approvals for outside business activities,” Citigroup said in a statement, declining to comment on Gelinas’s status.
Gelinas didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.
Gelinas is a senior IT group manager, holding the rank of director, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
QMap.pub received more than 10 million visitors in July according to web analytics company SimilarWeb. The site served as an aggregator of “Q drops,” which are anonymous posts on the website 8kun by someone claiming to have a high-level government security clearance providing inside information.
The QAnon theory posits that President Donald Trump is battling a “deep state” ring of child-sex traffickers. Some adherents of QAnon are running for public office, but some others have committed violent acts or threatened them, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Because 8kun is difficult to navigate and rife with other disturbing content, many people interested in QAnon instead use aggregators that collect and present the Q drops. QMap.pub became the most popular by offering user-friendly features like tags on posts to allow people to search more easily for themes, said Travis View, a researcher who co-hosts the podcast QAnon Anonymous. “It was very effective because it allowed people to go down their own rabbit holes,” he said.
Reached outside his home last week, Gelinas declined to comment on the site, and said that QAnon is “a patriotic movement to save the country.”