Twitter is removing thousands of accounts and tweets that support the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory from its platform, citing the movement as "coordinated harmful activity" that leads to harassment and other harms.
"Weve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm," the company announced in—naturally—a series of tweets. "In line with this approach, this week we are taking further action on so-called 'QAnon' activity across the service."
In addition to suspending more than 7,000 accounts so far—and possibly as many as 150,000 before all is said and done—Twitter says it will no longer include anything associated with QAnon in trends or recommendations, make sure not to highlight it in search, and block certain URLs associated with Q from Twitter.
Q-related content has apparently been on the upswing lately, which is perhaps not surprising, as the US is currently experiencing both an out-of-control pandemic and a widespread civil rights protest movement at the same time. Adherents have also apparently been trying to do end-runs around Twitter's rules, which the platform is also pushing back on. "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 weve seen more of in recent weeks," Twitter wrote.
The FBI last year warned that QAnon and other "anti-government, identity-based, and fringe political conspiracy theories" posed a concrete threat to domestic safety.
"Although conspiracy theory-driven crime and violence is not a new phenomenon," the FBI wrote at the time, "today's information environment has changed the way conspiracy theories develop, spread, and evolve."
The agency also specifically warned of continuing threats as the 2020 election approaches, writing that domestic fringe movements, "very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace over the near term, fostering anti-government sentiment, promoting racial and religious prejudice, increasing political tensions, and occasionally driving both groups and individuals to commit criminal or violent acts."
“Its a letter of the alphabet, as far as I know…”
Three years ago, QAnon kicked off with an anonymous post on 4chan claiming to have insider information about former secretary of state and recent presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and grew from there. As with many conspiracy theories, the details are somewhat inchoate and often contradictory, but the core belief more or less posits that an anonymous insider (or insiders) known as "Q" is sharing information about President Donald Trump's tortuous, long-term plans to take down the "deep state."