QAnon: Twitter bans thousands of accounts linked to spread of dangerous pro-Trump conspiracy theory

Social media platform has lately been under pressure to crack down on extremism and disinformation, including from Donald Trump himself

Andrew Naughtie
Wednesday 22 July 2020 14:07 BST
Michael Flynn pledges allegiance to QAnon

Twitter has shut down thousands of accounts affiliated with the extremist QAnon movement, saying that it has the potential to inspire or motivate acts of violence.

In a statement tweeted from its @TwitterSafety account, Twitter announced on Tuesday night that “we’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behaviour that has the potential to lead to offline harm”, and that QAnon activity met that definition.

“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 we’ve seen more of in recent weeks.”

QAnon is an overarching term for a complex collection of conspiracy theories revolving around an international satanic cabal whose members – believed by followers to include the Clintons, George Soros and Oprah Winfrey — covertly kidnap and breed children for their own cannibalistic and sexual purposes.

Followers interpret online message board posts from a mysterious figure, “Q”, whom many of them believe to be close to Donald Trump – or even Mr Trump himself. They are convinced that these “Q Drops” are predictions of upcoming events that could only be known by someone centrally involved in the fight against the “deep state”, the conspiratorial heart of resistance against Donald Trump.

QAnon has been deemed a threat by the FBI, which considers the theory very likely to motivate extremists into committing violence, and several QAnon followers have already run into trouble with the law. In one example from earlier this year, a woman filmed herself on a high-speed car journey carrying several knives to “take out” Joe Biden.

But QAnon allegiance is not confined to the grassroots fringe. One of the key characters in the conspiracy theory is disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom many QAnon supporters believe to be a covert leader of the “digital soldiers” fighting the “deep state”.

Mr Flynn has lately begun using QAnon hashtags and writing columns featuring QAnon symbolism. And few weeks ago, he uploaded a video celebrating 4 July in which he and his family recited the standard oath of office with “where we go one, we go all” included at the end.

There are also more than a few political candidates across the US who have themselves expressed varying degrees of enthusiasm for QAnon, from simply tweeting a particular hashtag to full-on embrace of the conspiracy creed.

One of the best known is Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is heading into a primary runoff for a safe seat in the US House of Representatives. She has been disowned by many mainstream Republicans for a number of videos in which she propagates QAnon theories; in one, she called the rise of Q “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping paedophiles out”.

It is as yet unclear whether Twitter will be cracking down on QAnon-supporting political candidates, a move that could expose it to criticism of meddling in the electoral process.

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