Twitter said Tuesday that in the wake of the deadly violence last week, when supporters of US President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building in Washington, DC, it has suspended over 70,000 accounts linked to the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory movement.
The social media giant began taking action on Friday to prevent QAnon theories spreading across the platform and had found many cases in which one person was operating several accounts, pushing up the tally for impacted accounts, it said in a statement.
“We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm,” Twitter said, without mentioning Trump by name or referring to the US president. “Given the violent events in Washington, DC, and increased risk of harm, we began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content on Friday afternoon.”
The QAnon myth includes wild, unsupported claims that Trump is working to defeat a global cabal elite of Satan-worshiping pedophiles. One of the five people who died during the Capitol violence was a protester who reportedly believed in the QAnon conspiracy. Many others who participated in the storming of the building have also been identified as QAnon followers.
“Since Friday, more than 70,000 accounts have been suspended as a result of our efforts, with many instances of a single individual operating numerous accounts,” the statement said. “These accounts were engaged in sharing harmful QAnon-associated content at scale and were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service.”
Though the crackdown targets those spreading the QAnon theory, quoting such content from other users in tweets is still permitted.
Removing the accounts caused other users to suffer a loss in followers, Twitter noted.
Among those who noticed the change in their follower numbers were Florida Republican congressman Matt Gaetz and Fox news co-anchor Brian Kilmeade.
Started the day at 892k.
Currently 856k and dropping. https://t.co/Qde6TY4Bwl
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) January 9, 2021
Twitter said that with Congress having confirmed US President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the presidential elections, it was working to counter “misleading and false information” surrounding the election that had been used to incite violence and had “updated our Civic Integrity policy on Friday to aggressively increase our enforcement action on these claims.”
Trump has rejected the results of the election, repeatedly declaring without evidence that the presidency was “stolen” from him through voter fraud and a corrupt voting process, claims rejected by election officials and the courts.
Other social media platforms have also moved to push pro-Trump conspiracy theories from their sites, with Facebook on Monday saying it will remove any content regarding the “Stop the Steal” movement, which backs Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen from him.
Twitter on Friday permanently banned Trump from its platform. The social network cited concerns the president would use it for “further incitement of violence.”
Facebook and Instagram have also suspended Trump’s accounts.
Trump has welcomed support from QAnon followers in the past, saying in August, “I don’t know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate” and also describing the followers as “people who love our country.”
On Monday the conservative-friendly social network Parler was booted off the internet over its ties to the Capitol siege.
Amazon removed Parler from its web-hosting service, and the social media app promptly sued to get back online, telling a federal judge that the tech giant had breached its contract and abused its market power.