Twitter is banning thousands of accounts linked to QAnon content for violating the platform's terms and conditions, specifically its rules against targeted harassment.
QAnon started as a conspiracy theory but has since grown into a loose collective of alt-right extremists committed to defending the Trump administration from a "deep state" plot to depose him. The name pays homage to the 4chan anonymous imageboard where an individual claimed Hillary Clinton would be arrested (among other conspiracy theories involving a "deep state"). Followers began calling this user Q. QAnon is not a formal group or collective, but self-described "believers" that routinely push conspiracy theories surrounding every major news event over the last three years, from mass shootings to the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the platform tweeted from its verified Twitter Safety account: "We've been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behaviour 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."
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.— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) July 22, 2020
In recent weeks, Twitter shut down over 7,000 accounts known to regularly boost QAnon content and an additional 150,000 accounts will be affected. In a thread, Twitter explained that accounts will be suspended if they are found to be in violation of Twitter's multi-account policy and coordinating harassment. Accounts associated with QAnon will no longer be featured in Trending pages, searches, or Conversations. Additionally, URLs associated with QAnon will be blocked from being shared on the platform. The New York Times reported that Facebook is preparing to implement similar policies to curtail the spread of QAnon content.
According to a CNN story from earlier this month, "Anyone can create a conspiracy, offer evidence to support it, and tag it with QAnon hashtags to spread it. But no one is held responsible for the trail of chaos and disinformation it leaves behind."
QAnon believers are known to "swarm" individuals they consider enemies, by coordinating relentless harassment campaigns. A Twitter spokesperson told NBC News a recent spike in such campaigns over the last few weeks prompted the crackdown. Refinery29 has reached out to Twitter for additional information, and we'll update this story as we learn more.