Reason Roundup

Twitter Boots 7,000 QAnon Conspiracy Theorists

Plus: Congress rejects demilitarization of police, Jorgensen polling at 3 percent, and more...


New rules also exclude QAnon content from Twitter trends. Twitter announced Tuesday that it is permanently suspending the accounts of around 7,000 users who have been spreading conspiracy theories about an alleged global pedophile ring patronized by top Democrats and soon-to-be prosecuted by President Donald Trump.

Known as QAnon, a reference to a secret figure, Q, who drops periodic online "updates" about the absurd and baseless child-trafficking theory, these conspiracy theorists have been gaining ground in the Republican Party, with a number of QAnon-promoting candidates winning primary elections and Trump sometimes retweeting those who use QAnon hashtags and slogans. QAnon grew out of the PizzaGate conspiracy, which surmised that Hillary Clinton and others were trafficking kids for sex through an unassuming D.C. pizza place and resulted in a gunman shooting up the restaurant in 2017.

As early as 2018, Reddit banned some QAnon content. "We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting content that incites violence, disseminates personal information, or harasses will get users and communities banned from Reddit," a spokesperson for Reddit told NBC News then.

Yesterday, Twitter announced that it would be following suit. "We've been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm," the @TwitterSafety account tweeted. "In line with this approach, this week we are taking further action on so-called 'QAnon' activity across the service."

To be clear, Twitter is not simply banning anyone who tweets about QAnon or shares related ideas. Rather, it's taking action against accounts tweeting about QAnon that are also "engaged in violations of our multi-account policy, coordinating abuse around individual victims, or … attempting to evade a previous suspension," the company said, promising to follow through on the suspensions and other new rules around Q content throughout this week.

These new rules include excluding QAnon-related content from its trends and recommendations sections, working "to ensure we're not highlighting this activity in search and conversations," and blocking "URLs associated with QAnon from being shared on Twitter."

Personally, I understand banning specific abusive or rule-breaking accounts but wish Twitter would leave its trends sections to populate organically and skip the blacklisting URLs bit. But whatever you think of Twitter's move here, it's important to note that Twitter is legally buttressed in its QAnon moves by the federal law known as Section 230. Many on the left and the right want to abolish Section 230, offering up a litany of ways it allegedly protects bad decisions by social media companies and other internet actors. But what Section 230 actually guarantees is that private companies like Twitter can moderate "objectionable" content as they see fit.

So, if you're glad that Twitter is taking down or suppressing the spread of QAnon content, thank Section 230.

And, if you're opposed to Twitter suppressing QAnon content and glad this content can still find a home elsewhere online, you should also thank Section 230. Without it, any web server, blogging software, email newsletter, or other online entity hosting QAnon theories would be much easier for anti-QAnon folks to take down.

In short, Section 230 protects private actors' decisions to both allow controversial content and to ban controversial content. That's a good thing. QAnon may be an absolutely nutso troll-turned-movement, but its proponents have as much right to speak online as the rest of us do.


Libertarian Party presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen is polling at 3 percent, per a new national poll conducted by CNBC/Change Research from July 10–12. Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins polled at 2 percent in the CNBC/Change Research poll. "Separate polling this month by Redfield & Wilton Strategies showed Hawkins with 1 percent support, while Jorgensen was backed by 2 percent of respondents," notes Newsweek.


• A congressional measure to help demilitarize U.S. police forces has failed.

• "In a free society, citizens should be able to easily distinguish between civilian law enforcement tasked with keeping the peace in our communities and the armed forces tasked with protecting our country from foreign adversaries," writes Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul at Reason. "Unfortunately, thanks to the federal government flooding our neighborhoods with billions of dollars of military equipment and property over the years, the line between peace officer and soldier of war has become increasingly blurry."

• Nancy Rommelmann reports on the latest from Portland.

• A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Alaska last night.

• Mood:

• "President Donald Trump has been trying to peddle his own version of fake reality, if not fake news, by repeatedly claiming that the recent rise in COVID-19 cases is only due to more testing," writes Ron Bailey—but Trump is wrong, he argues.

• Sigh:

• Double sigh:

• Triple sigh:

• Early birth control advocate Margaret Sanger's "harmful connections to the eugenics movement" have led Planned Parenthood of Greater New York to remove her name from its Manhattan clinic.

• The feds are fighting to treat protest press like hostile forces.