Microblogging giant Twitter has already banned 7,000+ accounts associated with QAnon, and is moving to restrict over 150,000 others in a bid to crack down on the loosely-knit conspiracy theory-pushing group.
“We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm. In line with this approach, this week we are taking further action on so-called ‘QAnon’ activity across the service,” the company said in a statement.
Twitter says accounts tweeting on QAnon-related topics will be permanently suspended, with associated content removed from trends and recommendations, search results and conversations, and QAnon-related URLs to be blocked.
“These actions will be rolled out comprehensively this week. We will continue to review this activity across our service and update our rules and enforcement approach again if necessary,” the company said.
The crackdown is significant, as nearly two dozen QAnon-sympathizing candidates, including Colorado restaurant owner-turned politician Lauren Boebert, have won Republican primaries in recent weeks ahead of the November congressional election. QAnon-sympathizers have also become a staple of Trump campaign rallies, with the president himself repeatedly retweeting QAnon followers and at least one of the group’s videos.
Twitter’s decision has led to a backlash online, with the company accused of cracking down on one conspiracy theory while allowing others to continue freely using the service. “These kinds of abuses do not end beliefs. They just force people underground,” one user wrote.
Not a Q follower but Antifa, Louis Farrakhan, Hamas, Iranian terrorists & more terror groups are on Twitter yet you do nothing. Why are you targeting only QAnon? Will you go after these terror/hate groups? Will you investigate alleged bot use by Dem coalition?— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) July 22, 2020
The Q movement does not “do harm” offline or anywhere. It simply seeks to shed light on the atrocities that have been done by people in the “elite.” We are just regular patriotic Americans concerned with preserving freedom and saving children. We’re not the ones rioting!❤️🇺🇸— Jennifer Leigh (@JenJenSPNFan) July 22, 2020
Im definitely am not a "Q" person or follower, however, limiting the conversation to topics only approved by the state sounds terrifyingly familiar.— Stacie Walker (@JustSpacyStacie) July 22, 2020
Anyone supporting this & making excuses for this is as facist as the state at this point.
These kinds of abuses do not end beliefs. They just force people underground.— AMABLACKPATRIOT (@DrShayPhD) July 22, 2020
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Phoenix Field Office listed QAnon-supporters as a potential ‘domestic terror threat’ last year, citing the danger that the conspiracy theories touted by the group may lead to real world “criminal or violent acts.”
QAnon originated on the 4chan online messaging boards in late 2017, with a shadowy figure named “Q” claiming, with reference to alleged secret insider knowledge, that the Trump administration was secretly planning the arrest of thousands of suspects of an international child sex trafficking ring and other criminal conspiracies.
Facebook already moved to block several QAnon-related pages in May, although Twitter’s approach is expected to be far more systematic and broad-reaching.