Twitter has executed a purge on accounts spreading the pervasive right-wing conspiracy theory known as QAnon. Twitter banned some 7,000 accounts belonging to the group to potentially stop the spread of propaganda to at least 150,000 more.
According to media reports, Twitter will flag QAnon-specific content and block related links from being shared bans under existing rules. Twitter will also no longer recommend QAnon-related accounts nor promote the accounts in search or conversations and will cease highlighting them as trending topics. The firm stated on their official Twitter handle:
“We will permanently suspend accounts Tweeting about these topics that we know are engaged in violations of our multi-account policy, coordinating abuse around individual victims, or are attempting to evade a previous suspension — something we’ve seen more of in recent weeks.”
Anonymous Online Accounts
Twitter is among social media companies that seem to have realized the danger posed by the movement that promotes wild theories like the existence of thousands of child-eating pedophiles. Facebook has struggled to try and moderate QAnon by trying to remove some group members in May. According to the Guardian, the group has continued to flourish on the social media platform. Twitter suspended one of the group’s accounts in 2019 while Reddit banned the group from its platform about two years ago.
The conspiracy group emerged during the Trump era, and it’s made up of people who claim to be staunch supports of the president. They make frequent appearances at his rallies and other Trump-related events. QAnon members believe that the US President is waging a hidden battle against secretive elite known as the Deep State. According to the group, the secret battle produces clues they believe are encoded in messages sprinkled across anonymous online accounts and hinted at by the president himself.
Twitters and other social media companies’ actions against QAnon border on censorship, of which China has been the biggest culprit. Several countries like Iran, Syria and Cuba have always blocked information they believed was contrary to their respective country’s ideals. Whereas it’s possible to use virtual private networks (VPNs) to circumvent flagged websites, governments can shut down VPNs, making them unsuitable in the fight against internet censorships.
A better solution would be to create a website using a decentralized domain that exists on the blockchain. While most people only associate blockchain with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, they represent only a small portion of the blockchain’s potential. The blockchain hosts decentralized marketplaces, decentralized messaging services and decentralized domains names that no entity can censor or even takedown.
There are hundreds of decentralized domain registrars that have launched during the last five years. They help to disseminate blockchain websites and fight against internet censorship; a good example is Unstoppable Domains that operates from San Francisco. According to Unstoppable Domains founders Brad Kam and Matt Gould, they are committed to preserving free speech and building a censorship-resistant internet through decentralized domains.
Centralized vs. Decentralized Domains
Central domains are what we are the usual domains that come with the common extensions like.com, .net, .biz, and hundreds more are what the majority of businesses and establishments use in their web address. The Internet Corporation controls such for Assigned Names and Numbers. When you want such, you purchase them via domain registrars like GoDaddy or Bluehost. A service like Amazon Web Services then hosts the content.
All these sites are hosted on one location, making it easy for the government or other authorities to take them down at will. This has happened many times when authorities have reason to believe that they have hosted content that’s contrary to the existing laws and regulations. For example, between 2018 and 2019 US Homeland Security, Interpol, Europol and other police agencies seized over 30,000 domain names in at least 20 counties. The said domains were being used for numerous activities, including selling counterfeit apparel and pharmaceuticals or pirated TV shows and movies.
Impossible to Censor
However, countries that are led by authoritarian governments are used to website takedowns where censorships involve much more than the sale of contraband. In most cases, it will take something as harmless as reporting stuff that the government doesn’t want the public to access. A good example is stories related to Covid-19 in China or protests in Hong Kong in December 2019.
The alternative to this is using decentralized domains with extensions like .crypto, .eth, .bit and more. They are stored in many different places, making them virtually impossible to be taken down or censored. Blockchain-based domains are a better choice because they eliminate the need to trust centralized authorities. The CEO of blockchain startup Kadena Will Martino says:
“Given current global trends in both business and government […], it’s quite rational to want an alternative to relying on the benevolence of a large organization of significant power.”
Truly Decentralized Internet
Websites like Unstoppable domain can accomplish simple tasks like paying bills using cryptocurrency without phone numbers or addresses. However, the “bigger use case is to build a website that is censorship-resistant.” The creation of a truly decentralized internet that no one can censor may still look like a far-fetched idea, but it’s now a possibility. Martino says:
“The internet will always have some centralization until the communications layer [i.e. global fibre networks] becomes decentralized […] decentralized domains doesn’t mean a fully decentralized internet is in our future, but when it comes to decreasing censorship, they can’t hurt either.”