If 2020 is the year of lost control, this week, social media platforms are reaching out for what little control they can grasp. Earlier this week, we learned that Twitter banned thousands of QAnon accounts as part of a broader crackdown on harassment and misinformation. Facebook has plans to announce its own QAnon containment strategy later this summer. But TikTok is the latest platform to take action.
ABC News reports that the QAnon hashtag, which at one point had 82 million posts, disappeared from TikTok overnight. The hashtag is no longer searchable on the app either. Videos that use the hashtag remain on the platform, but it seems like their searchability and exposure are being limited. This is most likely due to the level of hate speech and disinformation QAnon content typically spreads, which TikTok's community guidelines specifically ban. The platform would be well within its rights to limit the visibility of content found to be violating its rules.
Alt-right conspiracy theories have been trickling into TikTok for some time now. QAnon is an alt-right conspiracy theory that grew into a collection of conspiracy theories and then morphed into an internet subculture and possibly even an IRL cult, which believes that there is a "deep state" mechanism looking to depose President Trump. Many QAnon "believers," as they're sometimes called, have attended Trump rallies and some might even run for office.
Online, QAnon believers are known to harass and cyberbully people they deem are associated with the "deep state," often employing numerous burner accounts to "swarm" their enemies by barraging them, their friends, and family with online harassment.
Twitter reported low earning this quarter and is subsequently looking into a paid product to support its business. TikTok might be looking to sell in order to skirt a ban. On top of all this, social media platforms are simultaneously being accused of over and under moderations. Black creators are being shadowbanned, alt-right groups are spreading dangerous misinformation, the President is being moderated, Instagram still doesn't know what to do with nipples. All of this to say that heightened scrutiny around social media platforms — increasingly society's primary medium — is a healthy sign that users are no longer taking their neutrality for granted.