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Twitter Cracked Down On QAnon—But Candidates Touting The Conspiracy There Still Thrive

TOPLINE

While Twitter has worked to limit the influence of the QAnon conspiracy theory on its platform, banning more than 7,000 accounts and blocking the theory from appearing on sections of its site, political candidates with verified Twitter accounts who have openly touted QAnon on the platform remain largely untouched.

KEY FACTS

Followers of the far-right QAnon conspiracy believe a “deep state” of federal bureaucrats, Democratic politicians and Hollywood celebrities are plotting against President Trump and his supporters while also running an international sex-trafficking ring (an FBI memo released last year warned QAnon’s followers could be possible “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists”).

Forbes confirmed that 14 candidates (first identified by the left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters) running in 2020 and verified by Twitter have actively supported the theory on Twitter.

Three of the 14—Republican House candidates Alison Hayden, in California’s 15th District, and Nikka Piterman, in California’s 13th district; and Jo Rae Perkins, the Republian candidate for Senate in Oregon—have tweeted about QAnon since Twitter’s July 22 crackdown, while Mike Cargile, a Republican candidate for California’s 35th district, keeps multiple QAnon hashtags in his Twitter bio.

Even as Twitter fact-checks President Trump, many of the tweets about QAnon sent by verified political candidates remain up on its site, without any warning labels. 

Twitter’s sweeping actions against QAnon removed accounts from its platform and blocked the conspiracy from appearing in its trending section:

After Forbes reached out to Twitter about whether the crackdown would apply to politicians—especially those verified by the platform—Twitter issued Forbes a statement that read: We are constantly iterating on our policies and are evaluating the expansion of this policy to include candidates and elected officials.

Key Background

The 14 candidates Forbes confirmed citing QAnon include one candidate for the U.S. Senate, Jo Rae Perkins, the Republican candidate in Oregon; KW Miller, an independent House candidate in Florida; and 12 Republican House candidates: Joyce Bentley, Nev.; Mike Cargile, Calif.;  Erin Cruz, Calif.; Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ga; Alison Hayden, Calif; Buzz Patterson, Calif.; Nikka Piterman, Calif; Bill Prempeh, N.J.; Theresa Raborn, Ill.; Angela Stanton-King, Ga.; Rob Weber ,Philanise White, Ill. 

Tangent

Buoyed by their verification status, some of the QAnon-supporting candidates have racked up huge followings that dwarf their opponents. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican House candidate in Georgia who has called “Q” a “patriot,” has 45,000 followers—more than 36 times her GOP runoff challenger John Cowan, and presumptive Democratic challenger Kevin Van Ausdal combined.  And multiple candidates told Forbes they have had problems getting verified. Allen Ellison, a Democratic House candidate in Florida, told Forbes he was verified only a “few weeks ago” after trying repeatedly to obtain a blue check since March when he originally filled out the required questionnaire. Dr. Carolyn Salter, a Democratic House candidate in Texas, has yet to receive Twitter verification, even though her campaign filled out a form on Ballotpedia on June 15, a website which Twitter has partnered with to verify candidates. Gary Wegman, a Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s 9th district, has also not received blue check verification, though Mallie Prytherch, Wegman’s campaign director, told Forbes that the campaign completed the questionnaire and appeared on Ballotpedia around two months ago. Prytherch was also told by Twitter that it would have to wait for applications to be reviewed on a rolling basis. 

Further reading

Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates (The Hill)

Facebook Continues To Allow Political Ads Touting QAnon As It Weighs Crackdown (Forbes)

QAnon’s Fox News Cameo: The Conspiracy Theory’s Latest Breakout Moment (Forbes)

Twitter Takedown Targets QAnon Accounts (New York Times)

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