Twitter has announced a crackdown on QAnon, the far-right conspiracy group that believes there is a secret plot by the “deep state” against US president Donald Trump, citing the risk that the spread of such disinformation could “lead to offline harm”.
The social media group said on Tuesday that as of this week, it would seek to reduce the reach of content and accounts associated with the group, block its links, and permanently suspend all accounts tweeting QAnon narratives that also violate other policies related to abusing the platform.
The violations by QAnon, a movement that alleges that a cabal of business and political elites are involved in an anti-Trump conspiracy, had become increasingly common in recent weeks, Twitter said.
“We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behaviour that has the potential to lead to offline harm,” the company said in a tweet. “In line with this approach, this week we are taking further action on so-called ‘QAnon’ activity across the service.”
The policies, first reported by NBC News, meant that 150,000 accounts would have their visibility on the platform limited, a Twitter spokesperson said. More than 7,000 QAnon-associated accounts had been banned in recent weeks for breaking Twitter’s rules, the spokesperson added.
The decision comes as social media groups face renewed pressure to tackle fake news and disinformation ahead of the US election, with conspiracy theories that once were considered fringe gaining traction online, sometimes promoted by the US president himself.
Established after the US 2016 election, QAnon in particular has drawn a vocal following across platforms including Twitter and larger rival Facebook. As part of its allegations, the movement asserts that its anonymous leader — called ‘Q’ — possesses classified information that Democratic politicians and celebrities are working to take down Mr Trump while engaging in Satan worship and child sex trafficking.
More recently, it has pushed a baseless theory that 5G causes coronavirus, which prompted a spate of arson attacks on telecoms masts in the UK in April.
Twitter was thrust into the spotlight last week after it suffered a massive hack of high-profile accounts, prompting US lawmakers to question whether it had sufficient security practices in place ahead of the US election in November.
On Tuesday, Twitter said it would remove QAnon accounts that also violated its rules that ban multiple accounts artificially amplifying messages, co-ordinating abuse around individual victims, and attempting to evade a previous account suspension — “something we’ve seen more of in recent weeks”, it added.
It will also remove the group from its trends and recommendations lists, and seek to demote its posts within its feed.