Outgoing President Donald Trump wasn’t the only one to lose his tweeting privileges in the wake of last Wednesday’s violent breach of the U.S. Capitol, as Twitter said it began the process last Friday of permanently suspending over 70,000 accounts that were primarily dedicated to sharing content related to conspiracy theory QAnon.
Twitter Safety said in a blog post that the actions are being implemented to eliminate behavior on its platform that has the potential to lead to offline harm, adding that many of the people affected had multiple accounts that were sharing QAnon-associated content at scale.
In response to tweets from many users noting their reduced follower counts, Twitter Safety wrote, “Our updated enforcement on QAnon content on Twitter, along with routine spam challenges, has resulted in changes in follower count for some people’s Twitter accounts. In some cases, these actions may have resulted in follower count changes in the thousands.”
Twitter said last July, in the run-up to last November’s presidential election, that accounts tweeting or retweeting QAnon-associated content were subject to limited visibility across search, replies and on users’ timelines, and the social network would not recommend them to users.
Twitter Safety wrote, “It’s important that these types of accounts—that are not predominantly engaged in sharing this material—can see different perspectives in the open public conversation that Twitter uniquely provides. Our teams are discussing ways that we can empower research into QAnon and coordinated harmful activity on Twitter.”
In related moves, Twitter updated its civic integrity policy to reflect the official certification of the election results by Congress, reiterating that repeated violations such as sharing tweets with warning labels can result in permanent suspension of accounts.
Tweets labeled for violations of Twitter’s civic integrity policy can no longer be liked, replied to or retweeted, although they can still be quote-tweeted so that users can add context or their own perspective.
The social network continues to use a combination of technology and human review to surface potentially harmful tweets, updating its tools as terminology and behaviors evolve.
Certain terms have been blocked from appearing in search suggestions and trends based on violating Twitter’s rules on civic integrity, coordinated harmful activity, glorification of violence, hateful conduct, sensitive media and violent threats, and Twitter said it will continue to prioritize reviewing and adding content to trends.
Finally, Twitter Safety clarified the social network’s policies on spam: “It is against the Twitter Rules to engage in spamming behavior, including bulk, aggressive or deceptive activity. That’s why we routinely deploy anti-spam challenges to accounts to fight this behavior and protect the public conversation. During these challenges, account owners must verify their authenticity through a variety of measures, such as reCAPTCHA or providing a functional email address.”
Accounts are temporarily removed from follower counts during challenges to these actions.
Twitter Safety concluded, “Ahead of the inauguration, we’ll continue to monitor the situation, keep open lines of communication with law enforcement and keep the public informed of additional enforcement actions.”