Twitter took extensive action on Friday night against the accounts of prominent supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, including former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump attorney Sidney Powell and former 8kun administrator Ron Watkins, as well as several other Q associates Accounts permanently suspended from the platform, according to NBC News.
The social media company told NBC that the banking bans are covered by the company’s prohibition on “coordinated malicious activity” and cited concerns about online incitement to violence.
The suspensions came after Twitter also deleted thousands of QAnon accounts after supporters of conspiracy theory played a prominent role in the forcible takeover of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Twitter has also permanently banned President Donald Trump’s account, citing the risk of further incitement to violence. They said he appeared to have encouraged violence by saying he would not attend Inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20th.
The company then played a virtual punch-by-punch game by banning multiple accounts that Trump appeared to be taking over, seemingly to evade his ban. Accounts Trump wanted to access included @TeamTrump, as well as campaign agent Gary Coby’s account.
Twitter had long hesitated to ban the president, despite repeated violations of the company’s terms of service, simply because Trump was president and his tweets were timely. But its role in promoting Wednesday’s US Capitol storm that killed at least five people, including the company’s Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick action finally taken.
Several Republican lawmakers and conservative media outlets were quick to respond with outrage over the president’s ban. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called it a “serious mistake” the day he urged the Democrats to “heal” and “move on” from Wednesday’s violent uprising at the Capitol.
“The ayatollah can tweet, Trump can’t,” tweeted Graham. “Says a lot about the people who run Twitter.”
Twitter can ban me from doing this, but I willingly accept that fate: your decision to permanently ban President Trump is a grave mistake.
The Ayatollah can tweet, but Trump cannot. Says a lot about the people who run Twitter.
– Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 9, 2021
The mass bans caused panic among conservative commentators. Several have called for social media companies to be nationalized to defend their right-wing, hateful, or potentially violent rhetoric under the First Amendment. However, the constitution does not protect the right to incite violence.
In 1969, the Supreme Court set up the Brandenburg Test in Brandenburg v Ohio to determine if the speech required initial amendment protection. The two-part test asks whether the speech “is directed to inciting or evoking imminent lawless acts” and whether the speech “is likely to induce or evoke such acts”.
The first change also doesn’t apply to private entities like social media and tech companies, a situation that was upheld in a 2019 U.S. Supreme Court ruling by Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Other conservatives begged their followers to use Twitter alternatives, such as Parler, an ultra-conservative social media site that claims to offer absolute protection of free speech while often banning liberal dissenters and trolls. However, those plans were deeply hampered on Friday when Google decided to remove Parler from its app store.
“We are aware of the continued release in the Parler app, which is said to spark ongoing violence in the US,” the company told The Verge. “We recognize that there can be a reasonable debate about content policies and that it can be difficult for apps to remove all infringing content immediately. However, in order for us to be able to distribute an app on Google Play, apps need to implement robust moderation for monstrous content. Given this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings on the Play Store until these issues are resolved. “
In addition, Apple issued a final warning to Parler Friday, stating that if the violent incitement issue were not immediately resolved, distribution of the platform’s app through the App Store would also cease. Vox confirmed that Parler was still available in the Apple App Store as of Saturday morning.
The tech company cracks down on the president’s accounts and QAnon comes when Republican lawmakers threatened repeal of Section 230, which allows companies to self-monitor their own platforms at their own discretion. in response to what conservatives perceive to be censoring conservative views. In reality, social media companies struggle to apply their standards to conservative lawmakers who sometimes spread wild lies and conspiracy theories on their platforms.
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