Twitter banned a total of 7,000 QAnon accounts and restricted the reach of another 150,000 Twitter handles based on findings that the pro-Trump conspiracy theory followers spread misinformation and harass people who supposedly want to topple the president.
Twitter will stop recommending accounts and content associated with QAnon, including material in email and follow recommendations, NBC News reported. It will also restrict the accounts’ visibility on the platform’s trends and search sections.
The sweeping ban, announced Tuesday, July 21, will affect about 150,000 accounts, a spokesperson told the publication on condition of anonymity and added that the accounts were taken down in the last few weeks on the grounds that those have broken the rules of targeted harassment.
All QAnon-related terms will cease to appear on the platform’s trending topics and search sections as part of the ban, which will also eliminate the known QAnon URLs and prohibit the “swarming” of people targeted by coordinated harassment campaigns devised by the QAnon adherents.
The spokesperson described the enforcement of the ban as Twitter’s response to reports about rising harms linked to the pro-Trump conspiracy theory, adding, Twitter has classified QAnon material and behavior as a coordinated harmful activity under its existing platform manipulation rules.
QAnon, the right-wing conspiracy theory that came to be recognized as a political phenomenon, traces its origin back to 2017 when anonymous adherents referred to as “Q” started posting baseless claims In support of President Donald Trump. The followers circulated misinformation about Trump leading a secret war against a so-called deep state — a collection of political, business and Hollywood elites who they said worship satan and murder children — and falsely claimed Hilary Clinton ran a pedophilia ring from a pizza shop in Washington, D.C.
The warped claims have catalyzed a great deal of offline harm, with reports emerging about followers being involved in armed standoffs, attempted kidnappings, harassment, and even murder over the years.
In a most recent instance, an Arizona man who blocked a bridge near the Hoover dam with an armored vehicle claimed he was motivated by QAnon before pleading guilty to making a terrorist threat.
In 2019, a suspect in the murder of a reputed New York mob boss claimed he was under the influence of QAnon, which then posted about the president allegedly battling a cabal of liberal elites.
The FBI had last year issued warnings about QAnon growing into a potential domestic terrorist threat after a series of violent incidents over the previous three years were found to have ties with QAnon. The spokesperson said Twitter’s ban was partly influenced by the FBI’s last year’s report.