Twitter Removes 7,000 Accounts Associated With Conspiracy Theorist Group QAnon
The company said it plans on limiting the visibility of more than 150,000 accounts associated with the right-wing extremist community for violating the platform’s policies.
Twitter has taken down thousands of accounts spreading misinformation related to QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory group with a stronghold on some parts of the internet.
On Tuesday, Twitter announced it would permanently suspend certain accounts related to QAnon activity, block any URLs associated with QAnon from being shared, and prevent topics related to the group from trending.
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 Safety (@TwitterSafety) July 22, 2020
Twitter said it has been closely monitoring the activity of users perpetuating QAnon theories and decided to take action after it noticed accounts increasing coordination. The company said it has removed more than 7,000 accounts so far, and plans to limit the visibility of more than 150,000 accounts in search and trends. The accounts that were removed violated the company’s policy against spam, ban evasion, and platform manipulation.
The QAnon movement originated in 2017 on the anonymous online board 4chan after an anonymous poster wrote cryptic messages involving multiple presidents and government officials and signed off as “Q.” The community has grown to include thousands of followers who share unfounded conspiracy theories and pro-Trump opinions on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, and elsewhere. CNN called the group a “virtual cult.”
The most prominent conspiracy theory that stemmed from QAnon is that celebrities, politicians, and other high-profile people are part of a child sex trafficking ring who President Trump will one day bring to justice.
The pedophile theory gained prominence in 2016 after a conspiracy spread accusing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and other Democrats of running a child sex-trafficking business out of a DC pizzeria, now known as “Pizzagate.” A gunman was arrested after he opened fire at the pizzeria. (No one was hurt.)
In June 2018, a QAnon supporter blocked traffic with his vehicle on a bridge near the Hoover Dam while holding weapons out of the windows. The man later pleaded guilty to a terrorism charge.
QAnon conspiracy theories have flooded the internet and bled into politics as many candidates running for office expressed support for the movement.
As the movement has grown, one recent unfounded theory claimed that the 5G cellular network was responsible for spreading COVID-19.
QAnon followers have also emerged from behind their screens, showing up at Trump rallies and holding signs with the letter “Q” on them. There was a QAnon “march” in April in Washington D.C. where about 100 people showed up, according to reports.
The FBI has reportedly kept a close eye on the QAnon community, calling conspiracy theories a threat. In a memo obtained by Yahoo News last year, the agency wrote: “The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts.”
Model and television host Chrissy Teigen has been vocal about being targeted by QAnon accounts, which have harassed her on Twitter and accused her of being a pedophile. She also said the commenters have swarmed her friends’ social media.
Twitter’s sweeping action against QAnon accounts comes after Facebook removed a handful of QAnon pages in May. The New York Times reported that Facebook is working with Twitter and other social media platforms in limiting the reach of QAnon. Facebook will reportedly announce more next month.