Twitter Bans Over 70,000 QAnon Accounts In Bid To Prevent Further Violence

Late last year, you may have heard about measures that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were taking against the conspiracy theory group known as QAnon.

I discuss the group in greater detail here, but it helps to understand that they've been brought together by the online claims of an individual who goes by Q and purports to have high level clearance in the U.S. government.

What this person has claimed and what their followers believe is that Hollywood, the Democratic Party, and other political and cultural institutions are secretly run by Satan-worshipping pedophiles that President Donald Trump is waging secret wars against.

Although Q has offered no evidence to remotely support these outlandish statements, the inflammatory nature of this person's "drops" has compelled thousands, if not millions, of people to believe them. Some of these followers have indicated that they're willing to wage violent campaigns against their perceived enemies, which has led social media platforms to ban QAnon-related content.

But in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riot, both Twitter and Facebook have taken an even more aggressive strategy in moderating their respective platforms.

You've likely been made aware that, over the weekend, Twitter decided to permanently suspend President Trump's account.

This came after Facebook took similar action against the president, which Axios has reported was also enacted by Reddit, Snapchat, Twitch, YouTube, Shopify and Tiktok.

These bans were in response to allegations that Trump had incited the attempted insurrection at the Capitol, which also describes the sole charge laid out in the article calling for his impeachment that will soon receive a vote in the House of Representatives.

But in the case of Twitter, this crackdown on content that could potentially incite violence has hardly ended at Trump or his closest allies.

As USA Today reported, Twitter has also removed over 70,000 accounts that they saw as linked to QAnon since Friday.

A representative from Twitter took care to note that this did not mean 70,000 individuals were affected by this wave of bans.

As a blog post by the company stated, they uncovered many cases in which a single person was running multiple accounts linked to the QAnon phenomenon.

In their words, "These accounts were engaged in sharing harmful QAnon-associated content at scale and were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service."

In addition to groups promoting conspiracy theories and calling for political violence, Twitter is also seeking to crack down on those posting misinformation about the 2020 presidential election.

Unsplash | Brett Jordan

According to The New York Times, any users found to repeatedly violate Twitter's civic integrity policy — which disallows tweets discouraging voter participation or spreading false information about the outcomes of elections — will face a similar permanent suspension to the one that befell President Trump.

Those looking to spread similar conspiracy theories or misinformation campaigns on other platforms will likely face similar consequences.

For instance, The New York Times referred to Facebook's policy to remove any users on its flagship platform and on Instagram that had any association to QAnon.

In addition, the company will also remove any content that uses the "Stop the Steal" slogan, which is used by those who believe in Trump's unfounded claims that electoral victory was "stolen" from him rather than it simply being the result of a free and fair election.

While Twitter's decision with regards to QAnon followers was welcomed and in some cases considered long overdue by many users, it was also decried as an act of censorship by others.

As The New York Times reported, this was particularly true in the case of those who saw their follower totals drop by tens of thousands as a result of the policy update.

Users such as Florida Representative Matt Gaetz and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suspected that they were witnessing Twitter remove their followers due to their political beliefs. Of course, this also has the effect of admitting one's own popularity among QAnon believers.

Nonetheless, Twitter's mass removal led to calls among Trump supporters for a protest at Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco.

According to The New York Times, that demonstration was supposed to take place on January 11 and police and city workers erected barricades around the building in response.

However, when that day rolled around, it turned out that only one person showed up to protest.

h/t: USA Today, The New York Times

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