QAnon, the sprawling far-right internet conspiracy theory that asserts the entire Trump presidency was secretly dedicated to waging a shadow war against an omnipresent cabal of Satan-worshipping, pedophilic Democrats, celebrities, and bankers, hasn’t exactly been the belle of the ball lately.
After QAnon adherents joined riots at the Capitol that killed at least five people on Jan. 6, its world was rocked by the revelation that Donald Trump was not, in fact, planning on launching a coup and arresting Joe Biden on Inauguration Day. Purges of QAnon content on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have intensified to varying degrees in recent months, forcing them to congregate on encrypted messaging apps like Telegram, as well as sites and apps either more welcoming to fringe fascist weirdos or caught off-guard by a surprise influx. Among those were “free speech” enclaves like Gab, a site primarily popular with supremacists; Parler, a Facebook/Twitter clone for conservatives that has since been driven totally offline; and Clapper, a similar knockoff of TikTok popular with right-wingers that we only just learned about because it was apparently also infested by — and has now been forced to ban — QAnon.
“We take this matter very seriously,” Edison Chen, CEO of the company we’ve never even heard of before, told the Verge on Thursday. “After investigating, we decided to take action to remove and ban accounts regarding QAnon and mis-info about vaccines… which are against our mission.”
“From today, if additional users were to post QAnon-related content, it will be removed,” Chen added. “We have zero tolerance about QAnon.”
QAnon promoters using hashtags banned on other sites like #WWG1WGA and #thestorm had managed to accrue tens of thousands of followers on Clapper, according to the Verge, with one supporter of QAnon-loving Representative Majorie Taylor Greene having nearly 30,000 followers. Clapper appears to have been barely mentioned in media reports before it absorbed an influx of QAnon people, which is pretty bleak.
Here’s a TikTok video summarising the overall vibe of Clapper, if you must know more.
Chen had previously told the Verge that while the company never set out to attract conservatives migrating from other wings of the web, it made sense that they were drawn by its promise of less moderation:
“There are lots of conservatives and political people,” Chen told The Verge. “I think they feel less censorship here and they’re kicked out from the other social media platforms. So they come to us, and it brings some opportunity to us but [it] also comes with some challenges.”
… Chen said that Clapper did not set out to be a right-wing conservative political platform, and that the company wants to highlight ordinary users’ lives. “Today’s social media platforms push most traffic to big creators while the creator in the middle and the normal user don’t get the opportunity to speak and be seen,” Chen said.
(Clapper has released a video denouncing the Jan 6. insurrection and helped the FBI identify one of the rioters, according to the Verge, and said it will expand its moderation team from 10 to around 20, as well as audit all million or so videos on the site for the newly banned content.)
Anyhow, let this be a lesson of sorts to aspiring social media developers: If you don’t have any kind of plan in place to deal with these people, they will come in droves. And that will probably be the first thing anyone learns about your company. Whoops!