Twitter announced Tuesday the social media platform has removed thousands of accounts associated with QAnon, a conspiracy-minded collective that spreads ludicrous, unfounded theories online. Twitter said the removal of 7,000 accounts is part of a broader push to eradicate QAnon content that has unfortunately picked up a more mainstream following on the right. The web of QAnon conspiracy theories is based on the belief that an anonymous insider in the American government is leaving bits of information about sweeping, nefarious Deep State plots against Donald Trump and the United States. The conspiracies pushed by QAnon-associated online trolls have taken many evolving forms, though usually pro-Trump in some tangential way, often accusing a vague global cabal of generalized pedophilia or murderous plots. Adherents to QAnon believe life is one big cover-up for something far more sinister that they alone are piecing together online to expose the rich and powerful’s truth-subverting acts ranging from government overthrow to coronavirus vaccine conspiracies. You can see where this is going.
While conspiracy peddling started online, its boundaries have worringly bled into real life, ultimately prompting Twitter to act. “We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm,” the company announced Tuesday. “In line with this approach, this week we are taking further action on so-called ‘QAnon’ activity across the service.” QAnon shirts and placards started showing up at Trump events. The FBI has tabbed the group a potential threat to commit acts of domestic terrorism, but the group has flourished and its absurdist claims have been amplified with an elite-level conspiracy theorist in the Oval Office. A slew of Republican candidates claiming QAnon affiliation is now running for office in 2020, including the GOP’s Senate candidate in Oregon. There will almost certainly be a QAnon believer in the next Congress. In response, Twitter said it is cracking down on QAnon content, including the myriad of accounts that are used to amplify its messages, often resulting in its outlandish theories landing on the site’s trending topics, making them much more visible to average users.
“We will permanently suspend accounts Tweeting about these topics that we know are engaged in violations of our multi-account policy, coordinating abuse around individual victims, or are attempting to evade a previous suspension—something we’ve seen more of in recent weeks,” Twitter said. “In addition, we will: 1. No longer serve content and accounts associated with QAnon in Trends and recommendations; 2. Work to ensure we’re not highlighting this activity in search and conversations; 3. Block URLs associated with QAnon from being shared on Twitter.” Twitter told NPR that it expects the effort will impact more than 150,000 accounts all told.