Conservatives Complain About Losing Twitter Followers Amid QAnon Purge

Republican politicians and conservative personalities who complained about losing Twitter followers in recent days may finally have an explanation, as the social network has confirmed a purge of QAnon accounts and spam.

The platform announced on Tuesday that more than 70,000 accounts that were mostly sharing content associated with the unfounded conspiracy theory had been suspended from the website after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, in an insurrection that left five people dead.

"These actions may have resulted in follower count changes in the thousands," Twitter said in an update about the takedown published on Tuesday.

Twitter said it takes "strong enforcement action" on behavior on the website that has the potential to lead to offline harm, and said that the QAnon accounts were permanently suspended starting on Friday afternoon due to "increased risk of harm."

QAnon is a conspiracy theory whose believers think Donald Trump is central to taking down a "deep state" cabal. The identity of "Q" has never been confirmed but advocates claim without evidence they are a government official who has access to intelligence. Posts from Q are deciphered by QAnon followers after being published online.

Some of the rioters and Trump supporters who were recorded—or recorded themselves—storming the Capitol last week wore QAnon branded clothing.

Twitter said on Tuesday: "Since Friday, more than 70,000 accounts have been suspended as a result of our efforts, with many instances of a single individual operating numerous accounts. These accounts were engaged in sharing harmful QAnon-associated content at scale and... dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service."

On January 8, Twitter blocked President Donald Trump's account to limit any further incitement. Trump was also blocked on Facebook, while another social network popular with conservatives, Parler, was removed from the web on Monday after enforcement action by Apple, Google and Amazon Web Services.

In the wake of the Capitol incident, some conservatives noted that they had seen a sudden and unexplained drop in their followers on Twitter.

Matt Gaetz, the U.S. representative for Florida's 1st congressional district, tweeted on Saturday: "I wish I could lose weight as fast as I'm losing followers during this Twitter purge..."

He was far from alone. The former Trump administration Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said she had lost 50,000 followers in a week. On his personal account, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested in an image that he was down by thousands of accounts despite a number of Democratic Party politicians appearing to pick up followers.

Scott Atlas, a former White House coronavirus adviser who resigned last December, tweeted on Monday that he had lost 12,000 followers in recent days. The drop also appeared to extend to contributors and hosts linked to Fox News.

Brian Kilmeade, a Fox and Friends host, claimed to have lost 30,000 followers over four hours on January 9. Anchor Maria Bartiromo, who recently moved to the now-defunct social network Parler, claimed "China won" after noting her follower count dipped by thousands. Fox News contributor Byron York also claimed he had a "precipitous drop" of 29,000.

I’ve lost 50k+ followers this week. The radical left and their big tech allies cannot marginalize, censor, or silence the American people. This is not China, this is United States of America, and we are a free country. https://t.co/Xupd0N1hea

— Sarah Huckabee Sanders (@SarahHuckabee) January 9, 2021

I have lost 12k followers in the past few days. Just FYI.

— Scott W. Atlas (@ScottWAtlas) January 11, 2021

I’m down 40 k https://t.co/RspPDEaAvW

— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) January 9, 2021

Now, down nearly 29,000. I think about 1500 of that came slowly between election and early January, when I was writing that results showed Biden victory and Trump legal options narrowing, then finished. Angered some followers. But big, precipitous drop has come in recent hours. pic.twitter.com/lYLYZ5hplA

— Byron York (@ByronYork) January 9, 2021

This is how you create an echo chamber... pic.twitter.com/aPDA37qKS0

— Mike Pompeo (@mikepompeo) January 9, 2021
QAnon flag at Capitol Building
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump fly a U.S. flag with a symbol from the group QAnon as they gather outside the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Republican politicians and conservative personalities have complained about a loss of Twitter followers in recent days as Twitter purged QAnon accounts. Win McNamee/Getty