Twitter takes down accounts linked to QAnon conspiracy theory | News | DW | 22.07.2020
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Twitter takes down accounts linked to QAnon conspiracy theory

Twitter has said it is removing accounts and blocking content related to the QAnon movement. The far-right conspiracy theory group is popular among supporters of US President Donald Trump.

Twitter removed more than 7,000 accounts linked to QAnon, it said Tuesday. The move is part of the social media giant's effort to limit the spread of the conspiracy theory by its supporters.

Other measures include blocking URLs associated with QAnon from being shared on the platform. Twitter also said it would stop highlighting and recommending tweets relating to the movement.

"We've been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm," Twitter said. "In line with this approach, this week we are taking further action on so-called 'QAnon' activity across the service.

"We will permanently suspend accounts Tweeting about these topics that we know are engaged in violations of our multi-account policy, coordinating abuse around individual victims, or are attempting to evade a previous suspension," the company added.

Read more: How does Twitter's tweet labeling work?

What is QAnon?

The QAnon movement claims that US President Donald Trump is actively working to bring down an international child sex-trafficking ring run by satanic global elites, including Hollywood celebrities and the "deep state."

Its supporters believe that "Q" is a high-level mole in the US government who has been leaking complicated clues and intelligence on fringe internet platforms since the conspiracy theory started.

QAnon supporters hold up signs during a protest in Munich (picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS/S. Babbar)

The QAnon movement has even gained traction among far-right circles in Germany

The theory first emerged on the internet more than two years ago but has been slowly edging towards more mainstream right-wing political circles in the US. QAnon followers have become a regular presence at Trump political rallies, where they often sport paraphernalia bearing "Q" symbols and slogans.

Some QAnon believers are even running for US Congress in November.

Does QAnon pose a threat?

A Twitter spokesperson said Tuesday's action was taken because QAnon followers were causing increasing harm. Its supporters have used social media to target Trump's critics with harassment.

QAnon followers have also been involved in protesting measures taken to curb the spread of coronavirus, particularly lockdowns and the wearing of masks.

Read more: Coronavirus prompts EU to curb spread of disinformation

The FBI last year issued a warning about "conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists" and designated QAnon as a potential domestic extremist threat.

Twitter's move comes after Facebook removed accounts, groups and pages linked to QAnon earlier this year.

dr/sms  (AP, AFP, Reuters)