Even QAnon cranks deserve free speech

Twitter’s ban of QAnon-linked accounts will be a boon to conspiracy theorists.


In its latest act of censorship, Twitter has moved to ban accounts connected to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

QAnon is a collection of various strands of conspiratorial thinking which posit that President Trump is engaged in a battle against deep-state agents.

Its believers perceive an elite network of power-wielding politicians, businessmen and celebrities which they sometimes link to paedophilia and even Satanism. Recently, supporters have spread fake news about Covid-19, suggesting it is a hoax.

Twitter said it would permanently suspend QAnon-backing accounts that violate its policies by ‘coordinating abuse around individual victims, or attempting to evade a previous suspension’. But it is not clear what definition of ‘abuse’ Twitter is working on.

Likewise, when Twitter says it intends the ban to prevent ‘offline harm’, it is anyone’s guess exactly what content would qualify. Such an ambiguous rule could legitimise the censorship of a wide range of views.

The account bans are expected to hit around 150,000 users. That’s 150,000 people unable to express their opinions on Twitter because Twitter doesn’t like those opinions.

QAnon is crazy. It’s largely the preserve of tin-foil-hat-wearing keyboard warriors. But barring conspiracy theorists from speaking will simply strengthen their belief that they are persecuted by a powerful force seeking to suppress the truth. If anything, it may help their mad views to spread.

Just because QAnon gets a lot of things wrong does not mean it should be banned or censored. If we are to have free speech on social-media platforms, deranged rantings about the deep state are a necessary price to pay. Twitter would do well to remember that.

Picture by: Getty.

Let’s cancel cancel culture

Free speech is under attack from all sides – from illiberal laws, from a stifling climate of conformity, and from a powerful, prevailing fear of being outed as a heretic online, in the workplace, or even among friends, for uttering a dissenting thought. This is why we at spiked are stepping up our fight for speech, expanding our output and remaking the case for this most foundational liberty. But to do that we need your help. spiked – unlike so many things these days – is free. We rely on our loyal readers to fund our journalism. So if you want to support us, please do consider becoming a regular donor. Even £5 per month can be a huge help. You can find out more and sign up here. Thank you! And keep speaking freely.

Donate now

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Darth Saddius

24th July 2020 at 10:22 pm

One way of thinking about this is to imagine some QUANON crank accusing you, in print/online, of noncery combined with cannibalism. Would one be quite so sanguine about the Crankensteins free speech then I wonder?

Ness Immersion

23rd July 2020 at 11:59 pm

Mmm Qanon cranks eh.
The actual evidence is pointing the other way, much though the deep state tries to muddy the water.

Calling them cranks would seem to be projection again, rather than a dispassionate analysis.
Can’t wait for the excuses when Trumo campaign starts revealing what they’ve got on Biden.

Patrick O’Dowd

23rd July 2020 at 11:10 pm

Twitter and Facebook and other social media operators are not providing neutral spaces, they make their money from enabling groups to form and enlarge and their algorithms drive traffic towards them. It’s all innocuous pulling people together with say an interest in fishing whom advertisers can pay Facebook to target with their ads. But it’s not that when it comes to conspiracy theories or extremists etc.

Bastard Man

23rd July 2020 at 9:32 pm

Free speech is binary. You’re for it, or you’re not. It’s that simple. I’m for it.

Dominic Straiton

23rd July 2020 at 9:48 pm

Im with you Mr Bastard.

June Ray

24th July 2020 at 7:50 am

Bless you guys!

If you ran a video games company or a chain of coffee shops in the no try of England you’d want to control Mr Bastard’s speech though, obviously.

If you ran an airline you’d have instructions for what Mr Bastard should wear and what he can’t say if he’s going to be serving tea to your customers.

Darth Saddius

24th July 2020 at 10:26 pm

Presumably not the free speech to libel you though I assume?

Dominic Straiton

23rd July 2020 at 7:32 pm

I remember when Nigel Farage was a “crank” as was Galileo.

Eric Praline

23rd July 2020 at 8:48 pm

That’s a logical fallacy. Most people who start off as cranks remain cranks.

Dominic Straiton

23rd July 2020 at 9:34 pm

Who decides whos a crank?Lysenko definitely wasnt on pain of death.

Eric Praline

23rd July 2020 at 10:18 pm

You can test ideas in science, in other fields it is more difficult and can be subjective. But the point is that 99.9% of people with crackpot theories are crackpots, not Galileos. No I’m not going to define crackpot, but examples include flat earthers, creationists, people who think MMR causes autism, Bildeberg types etc.

jamie murray

24th July 2020 at 8:32 am

Hi Eric, you missed off your list of cranks [or people who believe without empirical evidence, which is different than a worldview based on a priori assumptions, whereas for something to be “scientific” it needs to be testable and repeatable , and none of the following are- evolutionists [not to be confused with natural seletion/micro evolution, which is observable, or supporters of spontaneous generation abiogenesis] or nothing x nothing =everything believers [also known as big bangers].Believing in any of those places faith in “origins” science as opposed to “empirical” science, one testable and falsifiable, the other isn’t, so if you believe in something that you can’t see happen and isn’t testable or repeatable, does that make you yourself a crank?. Or do believers in those kind of theories get a pass? P.s neo darwinian theory is shot so full of holes the paradigm shifts are becoming embarrassing, see Dawkins contend life could have been seeded by aliens, honestly, some people will believe anything!

Darth Saddius

24th July 2020 at 10:25 pm

Dear Jamie Murray. I’m intrigued. Can you explain one of these paradigm shifts that contradicts evolution by natural selection?

jamie murray

25th July 2020 at 10:36 am

Hello Dearth- I was merely pointing out that natural selection within species is testable and repeatable in the present. Whereas the extrapolation from micro changes within a species to macro changes,a la Neo Darwinian theory from one kind to another is neither testable, repeatable nor has it ever been observed, it’s a origins science based worldview based on a priori naturalistic assumptions. It’s not empirical science, millions of years of time is invoked to make the impossible possible and as our scientific knowledge grows some of the Darwinists claims as I mentioned above become embarrassingly desperate,( spontaneous life from non life, do you know the impossibility of that, in scientific terms?, it’s beyond credibility).So rather than write a novel I’ll sum up, macro evolution is faith based, as is the nothing x nothing =everything theory, people believe this stuff through faith (as the alternative is anathema to them) and the guesses to explain how these events are assumed to have happened become even more bizarre, hence the beliefs underpinning the above can be describable as cranky and the goalpost moving as paradigm shifts, though of course some will describe the multiple theories and guess work as scientifically credible, even when it’s no such thing.

jamie murray

26th July 2020 at 5:50 pm

Responding back to you Dearth on the 26th- I appreciate a cordial discussion, to often atheists (you may be agnostic or another belief system?) resort to ad hominem/straw men arguments or just plain rudeness.
Let me be as brief as is possible, we could go back and forth on this, throwing various “facts, proofs and evidence” at each other and in all likelihood neither of us would budge, and I contend it’s for the following reason- a priori worldview. That’s it, nothing to do with evidence/facts etc. ( which incidentally don’t speak for themselves, they are interpreted depending on ones worldview, I would say billions of fossils buried round the world is “proof” of a Noachin flood, you’d say it’s “proof” of millions of years of burial under soil/rocks/sediment etc, same facts, different interpretations.) Clearly most thinking creationists are not stupid, they take the bibles historical narrative as factual and see evidence of that around the world using various methods of the sciences. Evolutionists frame the debate as science vs religion when it’s no such thing, it’s one worldview vs another worldview, both of which rely on a level of origins based “science” that at some level retains faith to believe, this is something evolutionists are loath to admit despite it being undeniably true! The caricature of the creationist as an unscientific, tobacco chewing midwestern hick is not only untrue but deeply misleading, the information is there on the web of many highly decorated scientists who accept biblical creation, young earth dating and other unfashionable positions. There is literature that addresses the billions of years assumptions, distant starlight, dinosaurs ( in respect of timescales and other issues) supposed different hominids leading to man, the assumptions behind radiometric dating and myriad other subjects. But none of it will change someone’s worldview as it’s (sorry to sound trite) a heart issue, not a head one,as the bible says “once i was blind, but now I can see”.15 years ago as a young christian I thought anything other than evolution and billions of years was the only game in town and anything else was just crazy, so I fully understand how you view this subject and am fully aware that nothing I’ve written will convince you otherwise. However, I appreciate the polite disagreement, it’s rather refreshing.!

Darth Saddius

26th July 2020 at 7:15 pm

Likewise Jamie, although we disagree I appreciate your polite response.

James Knight

23rd July 2020 at 4:22 pm

Not sure how different they are to the mainstream award winning journalists promoting the idea that Russia hacked the US and UK elections and Trump is a Russian asset (which is odd because I thought these conspiracy nuts were a Trump asset).

jamie murray

23rd July 2020 at 6:04 pm

Exactly, when the left wing msm spread conspiracy theories it’s investigative journalism at it’s best but when the right do it it’s nut jobs and cranks! Two points to make here, one is that the endless stream of falsehoods and slanted narratives the liars of the msm constantly push out is one of the main causes of conspiracy theories [we know they lie or exaggerate all the time, it’s natural to ask why?] and secondly, does anyone seriously believe there isn’t bigger players behind the front men and women of our governments?
Bilderbergs, illuminati, freemasons, big pharma, etc, take your pick or add your own! Or maybe i’m just paranoid and it’s all quite straightforward and transparent?

Eric Praline

23rd July 2020 at 10:18 pm

Yes I think you’re a bit paranoid, sorry.

Bastard Man

23rd July 2020 at 9:33 pm

The hilarious thing is that it’s been proven that Trump isn’t a Russian whatever, but we’ve got something that makes Watergate look like a Civil Service member adding a Ginster’s pie to his expenses sheet that arose because of this nonsense.

Patrick O’Dowd

23rd July 2020 at 10:19 pm

Trump with his extraordinarily deferential attitude towards Putin only has himself to blame for suspicion. It’s not a matter of journalists promoting anything – all they do is report on plainly odd behaviour.
Putin wants to sow discord and create disruption, and having a nutcase like Trump in the White House suits him fine. Whether he had any role in bringing it about – there’s no hard evidence and journalists don’t claim to have any.

Of course the boot could so easily be on the other foot some time in the future with suspicions about people you don’t like. Putin doesn’t care who wins so long as they are discordant.

L Strange

23rd July 2020 at 2:49 pm

“If we are to have free speech on social-media platforms, …”

Why don’t you get that Twitter et al don’t want free speech? They really don’t. Even if Jack or one of his lackeys was to read this, they wouldn’t see that they’d done anything wrong. They probably wouldn’t even understand your point.

James Knight

23rd July 2020 at 4:20 pm

Not so sure. Didn’t they start out as free speech warriors? Indeed was not social media in general lauded as democratising the media and a power that could be used to challenge and help over throw authoritarian regimes.

Not any more.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to comment. Log in or Register now.

Deplorables — a spiked film