Social media has been cracking down on content that it believes promotes “conspiracy theories.” But, is this really in the public interests? Or is it a form of censorship based on a left leaning political agenda?
The most recent affront came when Twitter recently announced that many accounts spreading the content related to the positions of the right-wing group known as “QAnon” would no longer be welcome on its platform.
Citing concerns about “offline harm,” the company explained that it would begin treating QAnon content on the platform differently, removing related topics from its trending pages and algorithmic recommendations and blocking any associated URLs. Twitter also said that it would permanently suspend any accounts tweeting about QAnon that “have previously been suspended, coordinate harassment against individuals or amplify identical content across multiple accounts.”
According to a Twitter spokesperson, the company believes its action will affect 150,000 accounts and more than 7,000 QAnon-related accounts have already been removed for breaking the rules around “platform manipulation, evading a ban and spam.”
But, is QAnon and its related content banned because their ideologies pose a clear and present danger to the public good, or because they are supporters of President Trump?
QAnon emerged in the Trump era and the conspiracy’s adherents generally fervently support the president, making frequent appearances at his rallies and other pro-Trump events.
QAnon’s supporters believe that President Trump is waging a hidden battle against a secretive elite known as the Deep State. In their eyes, that secret battle produces many, many clues that they claim are encoded in messages sprinkled across anonymous online accounts and hinted at by the president himself. Trump has espoused many of QAnon beliefs, and he has been known to re-tweet QAnon content, often to his own detriment. Still, the president has not shied away from the supposed “conspiracy theories” promoted by QAnon.
QAnon Goes Mainstream
Once thought to be a “fringe group of wingnuts and conspiracy theorists,” perhaps bolstered by the president’s support, QAnon has emerged into the mainstream. In July, Ed Mullins, the head of one of New York City’s most prominent police unions, spoke live on Fox News with a mug featuring the QAnon logo within clear view of the camera. In Oregon, a QAnon supporter won her primary to become the state’s Republican nominee for the Senate.
Most recently, Fox News host Jesse Watters said in an interview with President Donald Trump's son, Eric Trump, that followers of QAnon had "uncovered" some "great stuff."
Meanwhile despite the ban by Twitter, QAnon continues to explode on other social media platforms. Facebook groups related to QAnon have reached more than a million new people since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
QAnon originated on the fringe message board 4chan in 2017 when an anonymous figure called Q claimed that Trump was sending secret messages through his press conferences. In the years since, the theory has evolved, but its central tenet remains the same: that Donald Trump is a heroic figure, secretly fighting to defeat the so-called deep state, a cabal of elites that QAnon's believers say control nearly everything, including pop culture, finance, and Hollywood.
What do you think? Is social media trying to silence QAnon the right thing to do, or is it a form of censorship that proves everything the group is trying to say? Reply in the comments below.