Twitter purges thousands of ‘QAnon’ accounts and limits scores more in massive ‘safety’ crackdown

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Twitter announced Tuesday that its engineers have removed roughly 7,000 accounts and has limited about 150,000 others as part of an effort to crack down on “QAnon” ostensibly because it “has the potential to lead to offline harm.”

“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 noted in a post.

“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 — something we’ve seen more of in recent weeks,” the team added.

Also, the team will:

— No longer serve content and accounts associated with QAnon in Trends and recommendations

— Work to ensure we’re not highlighting this activity in search and conversations

— Block URLs associated with QAnon from being shared on Twitter

“These actions will be rolled out comprehensively this week. We will continue to review this activity across our service and update our rules and enforcement approach again if necessary,” Twitter Safety continued.

In May 2019, the FBI designated certain conspiracy theories to be ‘domestic terrorist threats,’ specifically naming QAnon and “Pizzagate,” the latter a theory claiming that a basement room at D.C. pizzeria Comet Ping Pong was used by 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager John Podesta to traffic children for sex.

Yahoo News reported exclusively at the time:

The FBI intelligence bulletin from the bureau’s Phoenix field office, dated May 30, 2019, describes “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists,” as a growing threat, and notes that it is the first such report to do so. It lists a number of arrests, including some that haven’t been publicized, related to violent incidents motivated by fringe beliefs.

“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the intelligence bulletin continues, adding that the bureau’s intelligence division believes extremists driven by such conspiracies will remain active during the upcoming 2020 election cycle.

Yahoo News described QAnon as “a shadowy network that believes in a deep state conspiracy against President Trump,” which has led some to believe that Twitter’s actions are aimed at silencing more of the president’s supporters.

The FBI’s May 2019 memo goes on to acknowledge that the threat of domestic terrorism is also driven by “the uncovering of real conspiracies or cover-ups involving illegal, harmful, or unconstitutional activities by government officials or leading political figures.”

The bureau did not elaborate on which political leaders or cover-ups it referred to.

That said, developments since the 2016 election indicate that so-called ‘deep state operatives’ may indeed have plotted against the Trump campaign and subsequent presidency, which may be what the FBI was referring to regarding “real conspiracies.”

Some of the operatives regularly mentioned in relation to those developments include former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok; former FBI lawyer Lisa Page; former FBI Director James Comey; former CIA Director John Brennan; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates; and former top FBI lawyer James Baker.

In addition, former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, the latter considered to be the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, have also been implicated in the targeting of the 2016 Trump campaign via the FBI’s “Operation Crossfire Hurricane,” which was billed as a counterintelligence probe.

And, the set-up of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in a perjury trap is thought to be part of the overall effort to undermine President Trump after he took office.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has also indicated in the past that such a plot existed.

During a Senate hearing in April 2019, he said he believed that “spying did occur” against the Trump campaign.

In a December interview with MSNBC, Barr also alluded to a plot to undermine the Trump presidency.

“I think there could have been a lot of motivations involved. And different motivations. And there could be motivations in the FBI and motivations outside the FBI by other players on this,” he told correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

Asked if he really believed that the Trump campaign was “spied upon,” Barr left no doubt he thinks so.

“Oh, it was clearly spied upon. I mean, that’s what electronic surveillance is. I think wiring people up to go in and talk to people and make recordings of their conversations is spying,” he said. “I think going through people’s emails which they did as a result of the FISA warrant.”

As a result of his suspicions, Barr last year assigned U.S. Attorney John Durham of Connecticut to examine the origins behind the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. The Justice Department announced last fall that the initial review had turned into a criminal probe, suggesting that Durham found evidence of illegality.

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Jon Dougherty

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