Twitter on Friday removed the reports of several high profile supporters of President Trump and the QAnon conspiracy theory. The targets included former Trump advisor Michael Flynn and former Trump attorney Sidney Powell.
The rioters who broke into the Capitol on Wednesday were of course supporters of Donald Trump. Many were also inspired by QAnon. The QAnon conspiracy theory revolves around a supposed government insider who says "Q". Members of this community have baselessly accused liberal leaders like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and George Soros of running a sex trafficking ring in an attempt to organize a coup against President Trump.
These paranoid beliefs appear to have inspired some QAnon enthusiasts to attempt their own coup on Wednesday when supporters broke into the Capitol to prevent Congress from confirming Joe Biden's election. Their actions resulted in the deaths of five people, including Brian Sicknick, a U.S. Capitol Police officer.
The incident appears to have inspired Twitter's leadership to take a tougher line against celebrities who have held these kinds of beliefs on Twitter.
Sidney Powell advocated bizarre conspiracy theories
Sidney Powell has spent the last two months promoting far-fetched claims about election fraud in the 2020 election. Powell once claimed to have evidence that Democrats used a computer program developed by the Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and the Chinese Communist Party to steal votes in Georgia and other states.
Chavez has been dead since 2013, and Powell has never presented any evidence to support these claims. Eventually, her claims were turned out to be such that the Trump campaign dropped her from her legal team.
Election software provider Dominion recently sued Powell for defamation after repeatedly claiming that Dominion's software was used in its alleged campaign program. In his lawsuit, Dominion said Powell's claims were based on "statements made by a diverse crew of conspiracy theorists, conspirators, armchair experts" and anonymous sources that were judged to be "totally unreliable" by the courts.
Flynn advocated a military takeover of the US
Michael Flynn advised Donald Trump on national security issues in the 2016 presidential election and was briefly his national security advisor. He ran into trouble, however, for failing to disclose lobbying for the Turkish government and for allegedly misleading Vice President Mike Pence about talks with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the weeks following the 2016 presidential election. Trump released him in February 2017. He was then investigated by Special Advisor Robert Mueller, who pressured him to plead guilty in December 2017 of lied to the FBI.
In 2019, Flynn fired his former attorneys and hired Powell. Powell went on Fox News to stand up for her client. In 2020, the Trump administration moved Flynn's case to be dismissed. The judge overseeing the case was skeptical of the government's request, but before the judge issued a decision, Trump pardoned Flynn.
As the Daily Beast reported last month, Flynn is a standout figure in the QAnon world:
His legal fund received revenue from the sale of some pro-QAnon books by proponents of conspiracy theory – perhaps appropriate given that many QAnon believers believe Flynn is secretly the mysterious "Q" that gives out the clues that make up conspiracy theory. In July, Flynn repaid the favor, recording that he had taken a "QAnon Oath" with members of his family.
QAnon podcasts were an integral part of Flynn's public relations work after he evaded his federal charge. On December 2nd, Flynn appeared on the QAnon-affiliated podcast, "Bards of War," directed by a man who publishes a cryptic QAnon style about the deep state. Flynn stated that the United States was on the verge of a socialist takeover.
Also in December, Flynn sponsored a press release from an organization called We The People Convention, which declared last November's election fraudulent and called on President Trump to "immediately declare a limited form of martial law and temporarily suspend the Constitution and civilian control these general elections just to have the military monitor re-election. "
In addition to Flynn and Powell, Twitter closed the account of Ron Watkins, the administrator of 8kun – formerly known as 8chan – and other QAnon-related accounts.
"The accounts have been blocked under our coordinated malicious activity policy," Twitter said in a statement to NBC News. “We knew we would be taking strong enforcement action against behaviors that could cause offline harm, and given the renewed potential for violence associated with this type of behavior in the coming days, we will only permanently lock accounts dedicated to that Share QAnon content. "