Misinformation Watch

By Donie O'Sullivan, Kaya Yurieff, Kelly Bourdet, the CNN Business team and contributors from across CNN

Updated 11:21 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021
166 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
10:05 p.m. ET, January 11, 2021

Twitter says it has banned 70,000 accounts since Friday that promoted QAnon

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Since Friday, Twitter has suspended more than 70,000 accounts from its platform for promoting the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, the company said in a blog post Monday evening. 

The social media platform has been on an enforcement spree in recent days as it has removed major QAnon adherents including Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell. Many of the banned account-holders operated multiple accounts, Twitter said.

The moves have contributed to major fluctuations in some users’ Twitter accounts, the company acknowledged. 

“In some cases, these actions may have resulted in follower count changes in the thousands,” Twitter said. 

The company’s blog post also goes over other steps the company has taken in recent days to limit the spread of violent rhetoric on its platform, including making it impossible for any tweets “labeled for violations of our civic integrity policy to be replied to, Liked or Retweeted.” 

8:35 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Parler has been removed from the Google Play store

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Parler, the alternative social media platform popular with conservatives, has been banned from the Google Play Store, Google told CNN Business Friday evening. 

Google said its app store has long required that apps displaying user generated content have moderation policies in place to prevent the spread of violent rhetoric. 

"We're aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the US," a Google spokesperson said. "We recognize that there can be reasonable debate about content policies and that it can be difficult for apps to immediately remove all violative content, but for us to distribute an app through Google Play, we do require that apps implement robust moderation for egregious content. In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app's listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues." 

The decision marks a major blow to President Donald Trump's supporters, many of whom have found a home on the Parler platform. But it does not completely deny them access to the app. Because Android allows for third-party app stores, Parler can still be hosted on app stores not operated by Google. 

Google's decision follows a report by BuzzFeed News that Apple has threatened to remove Parler from the iOS App Store. (Apple declined to comment on the report.)

Parler is among a group of relatively new platforms that have billed themselves as free speech alternatives in hopes of courting conservatives who believe larger platforms are censoring their views. 

Read more here.

8:25 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

YouTube says it has banned Steve Bannon's "War Room" channel

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

YouTube has banned Steve Bannon's "War Room" podcast channel after earning three strikes on the platform in the last 90 days, the company told CNN.

Bannon's first strike came in November after he called for putting Dr. Anthony Fauci's head "on a pike." 

Two other videos were removed on Friday afternoon for violating YouTube's policies against questioning the 2020 election outcome, YouTube said, resulting in two additional strikes. Under YouTube's policy, a channel may be permanently banned after three strikes.

"In accordance with our strikes system, we have terminated Steve Bannon’s channel 'War room' and one associated channel for repeatedly violating our Community Guidelines," a YouTube spokesperson said.

"As we said yesterday, any channel posting new videos with misleading content that alleges widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election in violation of our policies will receive a strike, a penalty which temporarily restricts uploading or live-streaming."

7:30 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Twitter bans President Trump permanently

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Twitter has suspended President Donald Trump from its platform, the company said Friday evening.

"After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence," Twitter said.

"In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action."

Twitter's decision followed two tweets by Trump Friday afternoon that would end up being his last. The tweets violated the company's policy against glorification of violence, Twitter said, and "these two Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President's statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks."

The first tweet was about Trump's supporters.

"The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!"

The second indicated Trump did not plan to attend Joe Biden's inauguration.

Read more here

7:31 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Twitter bans high-profile QAnon promoters including Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Twitter said Friday it has banned Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell and the administrator of 8kun, the online forum that has incubated QAnon claims, as part of a crackdown of accounts that have spread the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.

Twitter said it launched the crackdown, which affects thousands of accounts, under its policy against coordinated harmful activity, amid concerns that QAnon supporters could seek to incite violence.

"We've been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm," Twitter said in a statement, "and given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behavior in the coming days, we will permanently suspend accounts that are solely dedicated to sharing QAnon content."

NBC News was first to report the sweep.

The move caps off a tumultuous week in which Twitter, in response to Wednesday's Capitol riots, imposed a temporary lock on President Donald Trump's accounts. Trump is currently able to tweet again but Twitter warned that future violations its rules "will result" in Trump being booted off the platform.

The crackdown on Friday affects some of Trump's most loyal allies, whom Twitter said it was removing for sharing QAnon claims.

Flynn served as Trump’s national security adviser before he was convicted of lying to the FBI and then pardoned by the President. Powell is a lawyer who helped the Trump campaign spread baseless theories of election fraud.

2:08 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Twitter and Trump are now locked in a game of chicken

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

President Donald Trump's tweeting privileges have now been restored following Twitter's temporary lock on his account this week for inciting what became a violent insurrection at the US Capitol. In his first tweet since being let out of the penalty box, Trump shared a video conceding that he will be a one-term president. 

But for Twitter, the challenge of what to do about Trump's account may only be getting more difficult, not less. As Trump reemerges, the company now faces a test of its commitment that any further violations of its policies by the President will result in a permanent ban. Even one more transgression could land Trump in Twitter jail — forever. 

It's a game of chicken that Trump, whose entire presidency has been devoted to breaking rules and testing boundaries, is sure to play. 

For the last four years, Twitter has been central to Trump's presidency, a fact that has also benefited the company in the form of countless hours of user engagement. Twitter took a light-touch approach to moderating his account, often arguing that as a public official, Trump must be given wide latitude to speak.

But as Trump nears the end of his term — and as public pressure has grown against the platform — the balance may be shifting. Last spring, the company began applying warning labels to Trump's tweets in an attempt to correct his misleading claims ahead of the election; it arguably had the opposite effect, prompting Trump to retaliate with an executive order and ever more baseless claims of election fraud. 

With those claims having reached their zenith by spurring a full-blown riot, Wednesday saw the most aggressive moves yet by Twitter and other companies to rein Trump in. For the first time in four years, it seems, Trump will need to appease Twitter more than Twitter needs to appease him.

Read more here.

3:16 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Twitch disables Trump's channel

From CNN Business' Kaya Yurieff

Twitch said Thursday it has disabled President Donald Trump's channel on the gaming service, making it the latest tech platform to crack down on the president's accounts after his supporters stormed the US Capitol building.

“In light of yesterday’s shocking attack on the Capitol, we have disabled President Trump’s Twitch channel," the company said in a statement. "Given the current extraordinary circumstances and the President's incendiary rhetoric, we believe this is a necessary step to protect our community and prevent Twitch from being used to incite further violence."

The move from the Amazon-owned gaming service comes as other platforms escalate their restrictions on the president's accounts.

On Thursday, Facebook banned Trump's account from posting on the platform for at least the duration of his term in office, and possibly "indefinitely." A day earlier, Twitter locked Trump’s account temporarily, and warned for the first time that it could suspend him permanently.

Trump has a significantly smaller audience on Twitch than he does on Twitter and Facebook.

2:37 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Shopify removes Trump campaign and Trump Organization sites

From CNN Business' Nathaniel Meyersohn 

E-commerce platform Shopify said on Thursday that it had shut down stores on its website affiliated with President Trump, including shops run by the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization.

A Shopify spokesperson said in an email that “based on recent events,” Trump's "actions" violated the company’s policy prohibiting the promotion or support of "organizations, platforms or people that threaten or condone violence to further a cause.” 

Visitors to Trumpstore.com and shop.donaldjtrump.com Thursday were met with a message that said the shops were unavailable. Shopify did not say how many sites tied to Trump it had shut down in total.

Major social media platforms have taken their harshest steps to date to restrict the president's use of their sites after a mob of pro-Trump supporters overran the Capitol building Wednesday. 

Twitter and Facebook locked Trump's accounts on their platforms Wednesday, and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that the ban on Trump posting to his account would last for at least two weeks, through the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

2:32 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

YouTube accelerates enforcement of voter fraud claims, in move that could lead to permanent Trump ban

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

YouTube announced Thursday that it is accelerating its timeline for penalizing channels that promote false claims of voter fraud surrounding the 2020 election, a move that could lead to President Donald Trump’s permanent suspension from the platform if he continues to spread baseless claims that the election was stolen. 

Last month, YouTube said it would begin removing content that made false claims of election fraud, but that it would not begin assigning strikes to channels under its three-strike rule until after Inauguration Day. This “grace period” is standard policy, YouTube told CNN. 

Now, however, the video platform will begin imposing strikes right away instead of waiting until after Jan. 20, shortening the grace period by two weeks.

“Due to the disturbing events that transpired yesterday, and given that the election results have been certified, any channel posting new videos with these false claims in violation of our policies will now receive a strike, a penalty which temporarily restricts uploading or live-streaming,” said Alex Joseph, a YouTube spokesperson. “Channels that receive three strikes in the same 90-day period will be permanently removed from YouTube.”

The decision in light of Wednesday’s violent Capitol riots follows moves by Twitter and Facebook to limit Trump’s account, and a decision by Facebook to ban Trump from its platform for at least the remainder of his term.