Twitter has permanently suspended over 70,000 accounts since Friday in an attempt to clamp down on QAnon-fueled conspiracies on its service, the company has announced. It says the 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.” At the same time, prominent conservative voices on Twitter complained about lost followers.
Twitter began suspending accounts on Friday afternoon, two days after President Trump incited a mob that broke into the US Capitol building. Twitter categorized the suspensions as part of an attempt to “protect the conversation on [its] service from attempts to incite violence, organize attacks, and share deliberately misleading information about the election outcome.” The Washington Post notes that there were a large amount of QAnon followers among last week’s rioters, including the self-described “QAnon Shaman” photographed shirtless inside the Capitol wearing horns and a fur hat.
Twitter’s suspension of QAnon accounts coincided with some prominent GOP members complaining about lost followers — namely, those supporting false claims of a stolen election. Republican representative Matt Gaetz complained of having lost tens of thousands of followers, a claim which is supported by data from Social Blade. Similar drops were observed for figures like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and elected QAnon supporter from Georgia Marjorie Taylor Greene. All had been regularly gaining followers prior to the QAnon purge that Twitter says began on Friday.
The amount of Twitter accounts suspended is a marked escalation compared to previous crackdowns detailed by the social media company, and follows one of the most striking examples yet of the real-world impact of online misinformation. Last July, the company announced it had banned 7,000 accounts in relation to the QAnon conspiracy theory. Although its latest crackdown has banned tens of thousands of profiles, Twitter says that single individuals were operating “numerous” accounts.
As well as suspending accounts directly, Twitter says it has applied restrictions on other accounts which have tweeted or retweeted “associated content.” It has reduced the visibility of these accounts across search, replies, and timelines, and will not recommend them to others on Twitter. It’s also asking other accounts suspected of spamming to verify their authenticity, which can cause them to temporarily disappear from follower counts.
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