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Twitter dismantles 7000 accounts linked to pro-Trump movement

Twitter has banned 7000 accounts linked to a far-right pro-Trump conspiracy movement, "QAnon." Why is Twitter constantly banning accounts, and why does their banning of accounts not raise alarm bells on "freedom of speech?"

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Twitter has removed more than 7,000 accounts linked to the “QAnon” movement over abuse and harassment concerns, saying Tuesday it will limit the spread of conspiracy theories by its supporters.S

Members of the informal, pro-Donald Trump group believe — with no credible evidence — that the United States has been ruled for decades by a criminal organization involving people they describe as the Satan-worshipping global elite, including Hollywood stars and the “deep state”.

Twitter takes down QAnon movement for causing harm

The right-wing group is also convinced of a secret plot against Trump, and its members have targeted his political opponents on social media with harassment.

“We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm,” Twitter said.

“In line with this approach, this week we are taking further action on so-called ‘QAnon’ activity across the service,” it added.

Read more: Parler: is this the alternative to Twitter’s ‘free speech’?

“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.”

A spokesperson said that the social media giant had decided to act because QAnon followers were causing increasing harm.

The FBI has identified QAnon as a potential domestic terrorism threat, according to US media.

Movement members have been spreading coronavirus lies

QAnon members have recently been involved in protests against measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, especially lockdowns and face masks

Twitter said it would help stop the spread of QAnon conspiracy theories by, among other things, making sure the Twitter algorithm does not highlight sites and tweets associated with their accounts.

Read more: A group of kids hacked 130 Twitter accounts: NYT

It will also “block URLs associated with QAnon from being shared on Twitter.”

Some 150,000 accounts will also be hidden from trends and search on Twitter, a spokesperson said.

What is QAnon?

QAnon is a wide-ranging unfounded conspiracy theory that President Trump is battling a clandestine “deep state” network of political, business, media and entertainment elites, often involving Satanic plots and child trafficking.

QAnon began in October 2017 on the anonymous message board 4chan. A user claimed to have top security clearance within the US government and signed off their posts as “Q” – hence the name QAnon. Q communicates in cryptic posts and claims to be directly involved in a secret Trump-led investigation of a global network of child abusers.

QAnon followed on from the “pizzagate” saga in 2016 – a fake theory about Democratic Party politicians running a paedophile ring out of a Washington pizza restaurant.

QAnon influencers have big audiences on social media. They urge followers to “do their own research” – in other words, watch YouTube videos and talk to other supporters – to solve Q’s puzzles. In its nearly three years of existence, the conspiracy has drawn huge traffic on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Reddit, attracting hundreds of thousands of dedicated followers. This includes celebrities and dozens of candidates running for Congress this year.

Read more: Scammers hack Twitter accounts in massive breach

During the coronavirus pandemic, Q influencers have spread unfounded theories about coronavirus, calling it a “deep state” hoax and have promoted misinformation about face masks and vaccines.

Supporters of the group claim that “Q” or “QAnon” is a mole in the president’s inner circle who has decided to reveal tidbits of intelligence concerning the global conspiracy on fringe internet platforms.

While it originated on the edges, QAnon has built a growing following on mainstream social media platforms too. Some QAnon adherents are even running for Congress this November.

Twitter’s decision comes after nearly 1,000 advertisers announced they were boycotting Facebook, demanding more aggressive action against content that promotes violence and hate.

In April, Facebook removed 20 accounts, five pages and six groups linked to QAnon.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk