Twitter Begins Cleaning Out QAnon from It’s Platform

It’s getting harder to intentionally spread misinformation. Twitter has started banning QAnon accounts and blocking QAnon URLs on the platform.

The movement to spread false information just hit another roadblock. Twitter has begun banning accounts linked to QAnon and is limiting a number of other accounts associated with them. QAnon, of course, is a radical right wing conspiracy group responsible for many harmful conspiracies. Among the examples is QAnon rejecting science and discouraging use of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also push the conspiracy theory of the mythological “deep state” in the US government trying to undermine Donald Trump.

The problem is that they’ve had free reign on various platforms for quite some time. This has allowed some of the more impressionable people to fall victim to believing some of these theories. As a result, the numbers have grown along with their influence.

More recently, however, is the fact that platform staff are reaching their limits to how patient they can be with this group. Reports are surfacing that thousands of accounts have now been banned Qanon accounts and roughly 150,000 accounts are now limited. In addition, URLs linked to QAnon websites have now been blocked and their access to influential features on the site have now been limited. From CNBC:

Twitter announced Tuesday that it has begun taking sweeping actions to limit the reach of QAnon content, banning many of the conspiracy theory’s followers because of problems with harassment and misinformation.

Twitter will stop recommending accounts and content related to QAnon, including material in email and follow recommendations, and it will take steps to limit circulation of content in features like trends and search. The action will affect about 150,000 accounts, said a spokesperson, who asked to remain unnamed because of concerns about the targeted harassment of social media employees.

The Twitter spokesperson also said the company had taken down more than 7,000 QAnon accounts in the last couple weeks for breaking its rules against platform manipulation, spam or ban evasion.

The sweeping enforcement action will ban QAnon-related terms from appearing in trending topics and the platform’s search feature, ban known QAnon-related URLs and prohibit “swarming” of people who are baselessly targeted by coordinated harassment campaigns pushed by QAnon followers.

Twitter, for it’s part, further pointed out that another reason for taking out the garbage is the fact that some users are circumventing bans by creating new accounts:

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.

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

Supporters are trying to argue that this is affront to free speech. Of course, a major emphasis is that the conspiracy theories are leading to offline harm. The BBC is reporting on some of the content being labelled as harmful to society:

QAnon is a wide-ranging unfounded conspiracy theory that President Trump is battling a clandestine “deep state” network of political, business, media and entertainment elites, often involving Satanic plots and child trafficking.

QAnon began in October 2017 on the anonymous message board 4chan. A user claimed to have top security clearance within the US government and signed off their posts as “Q” – hence the name QAnon. Q communicates in cryptic posts and claims to be directly involved in a secret Trump-led investigation of a global network of child abusers.

QAnon followed on from the “pizzagate” saga in 2016 – a fake theory about Democratic Party politicians running a paedophile ring out of a Washington pizza restaurant.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Q influencers have spread unfounded theories about coronavirus, calling it a “deep state” hoax and have promoted misinformation about face masks and vaccines.

So, in short, Twitter enforced the platform rules and took out the garbage. Some might suggest that they can easily continue their operations elsewhere on platforms like Parler. Well, that might be a bit more difficult because, as we reported back in July, Parler has also started enforcing rules guarding against harassment. So, if they want to harass people on that platform at least, there is the risk of rule enforcement there too. Honestly, with the track record that group has, it’s pretty hard to feel sorry for them.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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