A cryptic image posted on John McAfee’s Instagram moments after he was reported dead sparked speculation from QAnon conspiracy theorists that the antivirus software entrepreneur had activated a so-called “dead man’s switch” to expose the government.
John McAfee, 75, was found dead in a Barcelona prison cell hours after a Spanish court agreed to extradite him to the U.S. to face tax evasion charges.
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In a statement, the Catalan justice department said that attempts to revive McAfee were unsuccessful. “Everything points to death by suicide,” the statement added.
Less than an hour after McAfee’s apparent suicide was reported, his Instagram account posted a large “Q” with no caption or explanation. The Q appears to be a reference to the radical QAnon movement, which McAfee joked and tweeted about a number of times over the past few years.
The post, along with all other photos on McAfee’s Instagram account, have since been deleted.
As well as the speculation that McAfee may not have killed himself—similar to the claims which surrounded the death of extremely well-connected billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein in August 2019—a number of QAnon supporters suggested that hidden in the “Q” Instagram post was a cryptographic key embedded.
Several influential and popular QAnon profiles on Telegram shared a post claiming that the hidden key was in fact instructions and that McAfee had also initiated a dead man’s switch—a term used when a device or computer software activates itself when its owner dies.
Others made the claim about McAfee having a dead man’s switch while referring to his former tweets, while also speculating he did not kill himself.
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“I’ve collected files on corruption in governments. For the first time, I’m naming names and specifics. I’ll begin with a corrupt CIA agent and two Bahamian officials. Coming today. If I’m arrested or disappear, 31+ terabytes of incriminating data will be released to the press,” McAfee tweeted on June 9, 2019.
Eleven days later, he added: “The instant I disappear the information is released. Those named would be crazy to kill me or collect me. They are simply praying I live forever. If it’s released, revenge takes over and I’m dead.”
MelQ, a QAnon advocate with 139,000 subscribers on Telegram, wrote: “There is the possibly a Key code to a dead mans switch. A file that has damning evidence against the deep state, that is to be unlocked at the time of his death. We will see if this pans out. Only time will tell.”
However, as noted by QAnon John, real name John Sabal who recently organized the major QAnon conference in Dallas, Texas, the code is actually metadata that Facebook, which owns Instagram, uses on all photos.
“It’s an internal copyrighting tool used to track photo usage,” Sabal wrote. “Also, John McAfee did not commit suicide.”
Former 8kun administrator Ron Watkins, who denies being the de-facto leader of the movement known as Q, speculated that McAfee may still be alive and also have a dead man’s switch without referring to the Instagram post.
“Regarding John McAfee: He was in jail. He has a dead man switch. He ‘died’. His dead man switch has not (yet) activated,” Watkins wrote on Telegram.
“We will know soon if he is really dead, or managed to escape from prison under the guise of a ‘suicide’ [i.e. Epstein.]”
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However, one QAnon telegram account with more than 75,000 subscribers was more cautious about commenting on the “Q” Instagram post and the possibility of a dead man’s switch.
“Take the John McAfee stuff lightly. It could’ve very easily been a little publicity stunt to go out on. The deltas are fascinating but don’t hold your breath on this guy’s deadman switch,” the Qtah account wrote.
“Those who claim to have blackmail that he claimed to have are sitting in high places, not running from the law or the deep state.”
The conspiracy theorists noted that McAfee has previously claimed he had no intention of killing himself and his death must be treated as suspicious in previous tweets to back up their claims he may not have taken his own life.
“Getting subtle messages from U.S. officials saying, in effect: ‘We’re coming for you McAfee! We’re going to kill yourself.’ I got a tattoo today just in case. If I suicide myself, I didn’t. I was whackd. Check my right arm,” John McAfee wrote while sharing an image of his “$WHACKD” tattoo in November 2019.
In an October 2020 tweet sent while he was in a Barcelona jail, John McAfee added: “I am content in here. I have nftgamef.com food is good. All is well. Know that if I hang myself, a la Epstein, it will be no fault of mine.”
Instagram and John McAfee’s account have been contacted for comment.
If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours, every day.)