Twitter just announced an crackdown on QAnon, the far-right wing conspiracy theory movement, by banning 7,000 accounts and taking several specific actions that could prevent the spread of their propaganda from as many as 150,000 more, reports NBC News. The company confirmed the numbers to The Verge.
In addition to flagging QAnon-specific content for bans under its existing rules (see embedded Tweets below), Twitter says it will block QAnon-related links from even being shared on Twitter and no longer recommend QAnon-related accounts. It will also no longer promote the accounts in search or conversations and will cease highlighting them as trending topics.
Here’s part of the company’s Twitter thread on the subject:
In addition, we will:
1⃣ No longer serve content and accounts associated with QAnon in Trends and recommendations
2⃣ Work to ensure we’re not highlighting this activity in search and conversations
3⃣ Block URLs associated with QAnon from being shared on Twitter
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) July 22, 2020
It seems social media companies have slowly become aware of the danger posed by QAnon — a movement that promotes theories as wild as the existence of thousands of hidden child-eating pedophiles — as the 2020 election nears. Facebook in particular has been struggling with QAnon moderation after attempting to remove some groups in May; a report at The Guardian suggests QAnon continues to flourish on the platform.
Twitter suspended a single QAnon related account in 2019. Even Roku removed a QAnon channel from its set-top-boxes and TV sticks earlier this month. Reddit was ahead of the curve, banning a prominent group from its platform nearly two years ago.
Why is Twitter only cracking down now? Twitter tells The Verge that after monitoring closely and talking to experts, the company believes QAnon supporters have continued and in some cases increased harassment of Twitter users in recent weeks, and that it’s clear the content that QAnon supporters share is causing actual harm to those who use the service.
That said, the first 7,000 accounts were banned for violations of Twitter’s existing policies. We’ll have to see how well Twitter enforces the new rules; in particular, blocking people from sharing any QAnon-associated URL could be like playing an impossible game of whack-a-mole.