22:53 GMT14 August 2020
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    QAnon’s supporters believe Donald Trump is secretly fighting a powerful deep state, including top officials, politicians and Hollywood actors, whom they claim are involved in a worldwide child sex trafficking operation. They also allege that powerful figures including Hillary Clinton and George Soros have been trying to illegally oust Trump.

    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.

    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.

    The group has gone on to accuse former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and billionaire financier George Soros, among others, of illegally trying to oust Trump from office in a coup d’état. The group’s claims are said to have caused real-life threats and harassment of perceived suspects. More recently, the group has taken an active interest in the Jeffrey Epstein pedophilia and sex-trafficking scandal.

    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.

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