Twitter announced Tuesday it would permanently suspend accounts that violate its policies while tweeting about QAnon, as it pushes through harsh measures to limit the spread of content about the conspiracy theory.
The company said it is acting following problems with misinformation and harassment from the fringe group that claims ‘deep-state’ traitors are plotting against President Donald Trump.
In the last several weeks, Twitter said it has removed more than 7,000 QAnon accounts for violating the company’s rules against targeted harassment, spam, platform manipulation and ban evasion.
However, the new policies on account suspension are expected to impact about 150,000 QAnon accounts globally, they added.
The social media platform, which announced the change on its Twitter Safety page, said it will no longer serve content and accounts associated with QAnon in trends and recommendations.
It means QAnon terms will no longer be appearing in trending topics or the platform’s search feature.
Twitter also said it would block URLs associated with the group from being shared on the platform.
And the act of ‘swarming’ people in a targeted campaign coordinated by its followers is banned.
The changes are to be rolled out this week.
While many of the new policies listed are already covered under Twitter’s existing platform manipulation rules, the social media site decided to move further with a special designation against QAnon.
The company said it was acting now because of rising harm associated with the conspiracy theory.
‘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 social media giant said in its tweeted statement.
The suspensions will be applied to accounts ‘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,’ Twitter added.
‘We will continue to review this activity across our service and update our rules and enforcement approach again if necessary.
‘As we work at scale to protect the public conversation in the face of evolving threats, we’ll continue to lead with transparency and offer more context on our efforts.’
QAnon is known for advocating a far-right conspiracy theory alleging a secret, ‘deep state’ plot against President Trump and his supporters.
It alleges that Trump is leading a secret war against the so-called Deep State which includes many political, business and Hollywood elites.
It pushes the theory that the elites worship Satan, abuse and murder children, and engage in cannibalism.
There has yet to be any conclusive proof of these claims, initially made by an anonymous poster called Q on the 4chan website.
It has caused its followers to trawl through pictures celebrities post online to claim they show proof they are eating children and then mount a harassment campaign against them.
Among those often targeted is TV personality Chrissy Tegan who has been the victim of a type of campaign known as ‘swarming’ or ‘brigading’ that Twitter is now banning.
The company added that the rule could also apply to other groups such as QAnon who are primarily motivated by targeted harassment in the future, according to NBC.
The practice has been previously banned by Reddit.
However, as well as online harassment, the group has also been linked to a string of violent crimes including armed standoffs, attempted killings and at least one death.
Last year, the FBI issued a warning about ‘conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists’ and designated QAnon as a potential domestic extremist threat.
Among the other conspiracy theories pushed, QAnon also claims Democrats are behind international crime rings.
The group had originally found its roots in Pizzagate, the theory that Hillary Clinton was running a a pedophilia ring from a Washington, D.C., pizza place.
Yet after October 2017, it began to rapidly emerge from the fringes of the internet to appear at Trump rallies, where supporters wore ‘Q’ merchandise.
Even Republican candidate for Congress began to publicly voice their support.
There are at least 50 Republican candidates running for public office who have either ‘endorsed or given credence’ to QAnon, including 11 who will be up for election in November.
Last week, the head of the NYPD’s second-biggest union was been spotted giving interviews with a QAnon mug placed prominently in the background.
NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins was spotted at least twice in one week giving on-air interviews with a QAnon-emblazoned mug over his shoulder.
In the last few months, the coronavirus pandemic has allowed for the QAnon movement to gain even more momentum as they join with other online fringe groups such as the anti-vaccination movement.
Earlier in July, it targeted the company Wayfair and accused it of trafficking children after a price glitch on the company’s site raised the price of pillows and cabinets to tens of thousands of dollars.
Wayfair was trending on Twitter on July 10 and the conspiracy theory continued to rage on TikTok even after the company explained the pricing glitch.