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22 Jul, 2020 00:41

Twitter bans ‘QAnon activity & content’ in sweeping censorship move… bringing national attention to fringe conspiracies

Twitter bans ‘QAnon activity & content’ in sweeping censorship move… bringing national attention to fringe conspiracies

Twitter has announced a mass ban for thousands of profiles linked to the so-called QAnon community and any related content, citing potential “offline harm,” but critics insist the purge will only raise the movement’s profile.

The social media giant said it would permanently suspend accounts that share content associated with the conspiracy-minded community, arguing such posts could lead to real world harm, though it did not explain how. The sweeping ban will affect up to 150,000 accounts, 7,000 of which have already been wiped from the site, NBC News reported, citing a company spokesperson.

“We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm. In line with this approach, this week we are taking further action on so-called ‘QAnon’ activity across the service,” the company said in a tweet, noting it would also blacklist content from the site’s trends and recommendations tabs, as well as block all “URLs associated with QAnon from being shared on Twitter.”

While a Twitter spokesperson said the site previously targeted QAnon content under its existing guidelines for “platform manipulation,” the group was found to be involved in “coordinated harmful activity” more recently, a designation that apparently prompted Tuesday’s purge.

The move has already enraged censorship-wary netizens, some of whom suggested the en masse purge would only be a boon to the Q crew – a phenomenon widely known as the ‘Streisand effect,’ in which efforts to suppress information only drive it further into the public eye.

Other users demanded to know why accounts linked to Antifa – a loose-knit faction of radical leftists who often employ violent protest tactics – were still allowed to proliferate on the site. Despite repeatedly going out of its way to target supposedly ‘violent’ and ‘hateful’ groups online, Twitter has not taken the same blanket approach to the self-avowed ‘anti-fascists’, even as video evidence of their violent acts is shared across the same platform.

Some argued the new ban was a clear violation of the law, which distinguishes between “interactive computer services” and “publishers” under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. By targeting particular content to blacklist, critics insisted Twitter is acting as a “publisher,” which would open it up to lawsuits stemming from user content. Another user said the move proved the need for an “Internet Bill of Rights,” saying “social media goliaths” should not be free to shut users out of service, comparing online platforms to “the new public square.”

The QAnon movement gained prominence on internet forums following Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency in 2016, and largely consists of conservatives who believe “deep state” actors are plotting against his administration. Initially centered on an alleged government insider known only as ‘Q’, who left cryptic clues for followers to untangle, the loosely organized movement has since endorsed a wide variety of fringe theories such as ‘Pizzagate’ or ‘Wayfairgate’, which posit that the world’s rich and powerful run a massive child sex trafficking ring using harmless businesses as fronts.

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