Twitter removes 70,000 QAnon-linked accounts

A QAnon sign is seen at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C, on Wednesday before supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building in protest to lawmakers certifying elections results that show President-elect Joe Biden had won November's election. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Jan. 12 (UPI) — Twitter late Monday said it has purged more than 70,000 accounts dedicated to sharing QAnon conspiracy theory content following last week’s siege on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.

The social media platform said in a blog post that it has removed the accounts, including several operated by a single person, that “engaged in sharing harmful QAnon-associated content at scale and were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service.”

Born on the Internet in 2017, QAnon is a wide-reaching conspiracy theory that claims all U.S. presidents until Trump are puppets of world elites who use their power to maintain “their Satanic child-murdering sex cult,” a cult the outgoing president has been seeking to dismantle, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Twitter said it has removed the tens of thousands of accounts since Friday, two days after the president’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building to halt Congress, which was in session, from certifying electoral votes that confirmed President-elect Joe Biden had won November’s presidential election. Five people died during the siege, including a woman who was shot by Capitol Police and a Capitol Police officer who was injured during a confrontation with those storming the building.

The move by Twitter comes amid tech giants attempting to reign in speech they say causes real world violence. On Saturday, Google, Apple and Amazon removed Parler, which launched as the conservative answer to Twitter and is popular with Trump supporters, after they found content on the service calling for violence targeting Biden’s upcoming inauguration.

Parler has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Amazon in retaliation.

Tech stocks fell on Monday as traders anticipate such companies to become tangled in the fallout from last week’s siege, specifically that Congress might seek to increase regulation of social media platforms.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have also removed Trump from their services, citing risks of further violence if he remains on their platform. Trump has received criticism for egging his supporters on prior to them storming Capitol grounds.

Facebook also announced on Monday that it is taking additional steps in the lead up to Biden’s inaugural.

In a blog post, it said it will be removing content containing the phrase “stop the steal,” which was a motto used by the president’s supporters who falsely claimed the presidential election was stolen from Trump.

“With continued attempts to organize events against the outcome of the U.S. presidential election that can lead to violence, and use of the term by those involved in Wednesday’s violence in D.C., we’re taking this additional step in the lead up to the inauguration,” Facebook said. “It may take some time to scale up our enforcement of this new step but we have already removed a significant number of posts.”

It said an Integrity Operations Center working 24 hours a day to enforce policies around the Jan. 20 inauguration will run until at least Jan. 22 to monitor threats in real time.

Both Twitter and Facebook had made changes to the platforms during the 2020 presidential campaign after their services were used to spread misleading information during the 2016 campaign, as well as said they were targeting QAnon accounts.

In October, Facebook banned QAnon from its platform. In July, Twitter said it would work to block and limit access of accounts associated with QAnon, removing some 7,000 such accounts.

Since Friday, several conservative figures have remarked on losing a significant number of followers.

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Saturday she had lost more than 50,000 followers, blaming big tech for censoring and silencing Americans.

“This is not China, this is the United States of America, and we are a free country,” she tweeted.

Scott W. Atlas, a former adviser to the president on COVID-19said Monday that he had lost 12,000 in four hours.


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