Days after removing outgoing United States President Donald Trump from its platform, Twitter’s crackdown on far-right and QAnon-related accounts has reached New Zealand’s shores.
In the past week, the social media giant has removed more than 70,000 accounts, most of them for posting banned content related to the QAnon conspiracy theory, which falsely posits that Donald Trump is in a secret holy war against a Deep State cabal of prominent Democrats who are actually Satanic pedophile cannibals.
The accounts of a number of New Zealand-based far-right and QAnon activists were removed on Wednesday morning. Some were low profile accounts, like the @QNarrative one belonging to amateur cartoonist Ted Charlton or QAnon YouTuber Sarah Smith’s ‘Sarah Speaks’ account. Others served some of New Zealand’s most popular far-right YouTubers, like Damien de Ment and Vinny Eastwood.
De Ment spoke at a conspiracy theory rally in Auckland in early September and has previously spoken about his opposition to “mass migration” and the non-binding United Nations Global Compact for Migration – a common dog whistle for the far-right and a bugbear for the March 15 terrorist. He also frequently discusses conspiracy theories about central banks that verge on anti-Semitism.
“The New World Order is sort of the brand name of the illuminati, the brand name of the deep, dark, secretive societies that literally control 99.9 percent of all the wealth on this planet and use it, effectively, in corruption,” he falsely claims in a June 2019 video.
“The entire planet as we know it is run by evil central banks who basically buy off everyone – the media, politicians, academia. You name it, the banks rule everything.”
Eastwood, meanwhile, is New Zealand’s highest-profile conspiracy theorist. He is an Alex Jones-style conspiracy theorist with a daily YouTube show who believes Oranga Tamariki is running an “industrial-scale child trafficking ring”, that the March 15 terror attack was a hoax and who publishes videos with titles like “Elite CLONES, Freemasons, Demons and the communist new world order”.
Mothers Who Stand For Freedom, a far-right and QAnon-linked group targeted by anti-conspiracy campaigners in December, was also removed from the platform, as were longtime Twitter trolls the Redbaiter and Democracy Mum.
Former ACT Party candidate Stephen Berry also had his account suspended on Wednesday.
“We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm. Given the violent events in Washington, DC, and increased risk of harm, we began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content on Friday afternoon,” Twitter said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Many of the individuals impacted by this updated enforcement action held multiple accounts, driving up the total number of accounts impacted. 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 were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service.”
De Ment, for example, has a long history of being removed from Twitter before returning under a different username.
The YouTube and Facebook accounts of many of these far-right activists remain online.