Twitter Bans Accounts Promoting QAnon Conspiracy Theories

Twitter removed about 150,000 accounts disseminating QAnon right-wing conspiracies for violating the social platform’s policies and distributing harassment and misinformation that could potentially lead to harm. The company added that it will no longer recommend QAnon-related accounts and content, including that contained in email. Twitter also stated it will make efforts to limit these theories from appearing in trending topics and search, as well as users posting links affiliated with the theories.

The New York Times reports that this “was the first time that a social media service took sweeping action to remove content affiliated with QAnon, which has become increasingly popular on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.”

Those affiliated with QAnon “claim to have access to government secrets that reveal a plot against President Trump and his supporters” and posted this purported classified information first on message boards and now on mainstream Internet platforms. Twitter suspended 7,000 accounts that became increasingly active and involved in “coordinated harassment campaigns on Twitter or tried to evade a previous suspension by setting up new accounts after an old account was deleted.”

The FBI stated that QAnon is “a potential domestic terrorism threat” that emerged from “the troll-infested corners of the Internet” but now involves mainstream Republican Party members. Several political candidates are running on QAnon’s core belief: “that Trump ran for office to save Americans from a so-called deep state filled with child-abusing, devil-worshiping bureaucrats.”

The group also believes that Trump’s enemies are “prominent Democrats … [who] extract hormones from children’s blood.” President Trump has “repeatedly retweeted QAnon supporters.”

NBC News reports that Twitter’s “sweeping enforcement action will ban QAnon-related terms from appearing in trending topics and the platform’s search feature, ban known QAnon-related URLs and prohibit ‘swarming’ of people who are baselessly targeted by coordinated harassment campaigns pushed by QAnon followers.” A spokesperson reported that, “while the targeted enforcement fell under Twitter’s existing platform manipulation rules, its classification of QAnon material and behavior as coordinated harmful activity was a new designation.”

One of the reasons for the decision, the spokesperson added was because of the FBI’s report on QAnon’s “dangerous real-world activities … [including] QAnon followers … implicated in armed standoffs, attempted kidnappings, harassment and at least one killing since the conspiracy theory first gained traction on the Internet in October 2017.”

The QAnon movement, which is aligned with anti-vaccination groups, created campaigns with “fringe hashtags” such as #Obamagate and #SubpoenaObama that became “trending topics that Trump ultimately promoted.” It also targets celebrities such as Chrissy Teigen and Trump’s political opponents. The movement has “falsely claimed on Twitter, Reddit and TikTok this month that the furniture company Wayfair was shipping trafficked children because price glitches raised the prices of pillows and cabinets.”