Twitter bans 70,000 accounts dedicated to conspiracy theory

A QAnon conspiracy theory supporter wearing a "Defund the media" QAnon shirt at a "Stop the steal" rally against the results of the US presidential election outside Georgia's state capitol in Atlanta on Nov 18 last year.
A QAnon conspiracy theory supporter wearing a "Defund the media" QAnon shirt at a "Stop the steal" rally against the results of the US presidential election outside Georgia's state capitol in Atlanta on Nov 18 last year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • Twitter has permanently suspended more than 70,000 accounts dedicated to sharing QAnon-associated conspiracy theory content and ratcheted up its enforcement in the wake of the riot at the US Capitol last week.

Many of the affected accounts were run by individuals who were operating several of them at a time, Twitter said in a statement detailing its actions. As part of its latest measures, follower counts for some users may change by as many as thousands.

The firm had warned against the sharing of QAnon material in the summer and said accounts that tweet or retweet it will continue to have "limited visibility across search, replies, and on timelines and are prohibited from being recommended to others by Twitter".

Any tweets labelled for violations of Twitter's civic integrity policy - a key reason cited by the firm in its initial suspension of outgoing US President Donald Trump - will now be limited in engagement. Users will only be able to quote-tweet such posts, with likes, replies and retweets disabled.

Twitter is also blocking certain content from trending on the platform, updating its policies since last week's events to more closely monitor anything that could infringe its rules on hateful conduct, violent threats, civic integrity and coordinated harmful activity.

Facebook, which also blocked Mr Trump from posting on its platforms, including Instagram, announced it is now removing posts that include the phrase "Stop the steal", a common refrain among those believing that the Nov 3 election was illegitimate. The firm said there is an "ongoing risk of violence associated with the term" after the storming of the US Capitol.

Meanwhile, PayPal Holdings said it had blocked a Christian crowdfunding site, GiveSendGo, after it helped raise funds for people who attended last week's event in Washington. The digital payments processor also confirmed it closed an account held by Mr Ali Alexander, one of the event's organisers.

Online platforms and social media firms are distancing themselves from, and taking action against, those who encouraged or engaged in last week's violence.

A number of large US companies, including AT&T, American Express, and Dow, have said they would cut off campaign contributions to those who voted to challenge President-elect Joe Biden's victory, with Republicans in the US Congress facing growing consternation from corporate America.

Supporters of Mr Trump stormed the US Capitol last Wednesday, trying to halt the certification by Congress of Mr Biden's election win. Mr Trump initially praised his supporters but later condemned the violence.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2021, with the headline 'Twitter bans 70,000 accounts dedicated to conspiracy theory'. Print Edition | Subscribe