Twitter is just one of many major social media platforms to take serious measures in recent months to curb the internet’s QAnon movement. QAnon is a conspiracy theory that spun into a loose movement of people who believe that there is a “deep state” mechanism out to get President Trump. They’re not necessarily organized, but QAnon “believers” are known to swarm social media users expressing dissenting viewpoints with online harassment and doxxing. Recently, QAnon has gotten into the business of propagating COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
On Sunday, Trump retweeted a post shared by someone by the name of Mel Q, a reference to QAnon. The tweet cited a Facebook post claiming that the CDC “privately updated the Covid numbers to admit that only 6% of all the 153,504 deaths actually died of Covid,” and that the numbers were inflated by including elderly people and people who died of other conditions. The post has since been banned from Twitter for violating its misinformation policies. But it was also part of a much larger QAnon Twitter storm committed to downplaying the actual number of coronavirus deaths, and there are numerous other posts that have not been taken down.
CBS News reports that the post is a misinterpretation of the CDC’s provisional death count update from August 26, which mentions comorbidities or “health conditions and contributing causes mentioned in conjunction with deaths involving coronavirus disease.” The update noted that for 6% of the deaths, coronavirus was the only cause mentioned. For the other 94%, there were other conditions or factors at play, but the deaths are still coronavirus deaths.
In its recent sweep of QAnon content, Twitter added a “platform manipulation” clause to its usage rules that specifically prohibits behavior that undermines the authenticity of the platform. Additionally, Twitter has beefed up its rules to curtail dangerous COVID-19 misinformation, of which this is an especially egregious example. Twitter’s main focus has been to root out QAnon believers who abuse the platform, but their conspiracy theories are everywhere, and the best way to stop them is to not believe everything you read on the internet.