One Nation MPs lost more followers than other Australian politicians in Twitter purge of QAnon accounts

Josh Taylor
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

One Nation politicians including Pauline Hanson have suffered the biggest drop in followers of all Australian politicians as Twitter purged accounts associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Following the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January, Twitter announced it had suspended 70,000 accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory, after many of those involved in rioting at the Capitol espoused the fraudulent theory as their motivation.

“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,” Twitter said.

Related: Twitter suspends Marjorie Taylor Greene, QAnon-backing Republican

“Our updated enforcement on QAnon content on Twitter, along with routine spam challenges, has resulted in changes in follower count for some people’s Twitter accounts. In some cases, these actions may have resulted in follower count changes in the thousands.”

The action reportedly caused follower counts among Republican politicians to drop, and appears to have had a similar impact on the follower count of a number of rightwing Australian politicians, according to social tracking site Social Blade.

Most notably, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has lost close to 4% of her Twitter followers in the past 30 days, down 2,567 followers in the past 30 days from 65,563 to 62,970.

The biggest loss of more than 1,000 followers occurred on 9 January, but there have been several days in January where the minority party leader has lost several hundred followers a day.

Fellow One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts has lost 1,410 followers, down to 21,191, while the NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham lost 1,572 followers, down to 48,055.

There is no suggestion the politicians themselves support or promote the QAnon conspiracy theory, however, University of Tasmania academic Kaz Ross noted last year the conspiracy theory had proved popular in Australia in part because of other similar conspiracy theories such as Agenda 21.

“The belief that ‘Agenda 21’ is a blueprint for corrupt global governance has become a core tenet of QAnon in Australia,” Ross said.

Hanson’s “It’s OK to be white” motion in the Senate mimics a slogan that has its origins in the same far-right sites that spawned QAnon, 4chan and 8chan.

The losses among MPs from other conservative parties are much lower. Katter Australia party MP Bob Katter has lost 225 followers. Liberal National party senator Gerard Rennick lost 133 of his followers, taking his count down to 1,106, while Liberal MP Tim Wilson has lost 178, down to 20,099.

One of the more active Liberal MPs on Twitter, Dave Sharma, has increased his follower count by 302 in the past 30 days, losing just 21 followers around the time of the purge, to take his follower count to 8,719.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, lost 757 followers over the course of two days this month, but has made up for the losses to increase his follower count by 8,383 to 514,868.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese did not record any loss in followers across any of the days, increasing his follower count to 254,215, up 3,504. The Greens leader Adam Bandt lost 18 followers on 10 January, but overall his total is up 453 over the past few weeks to 197,924.

Related: Craig Kelly and George Christensen top performers on Facebook – and they want to keep it that way

The deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, added 554 followers, up to 19,025, despite losing 41 followers on 9 and 10 January.

Labor shadow minister Brendan O’Connor lost 1,039 followers on 7 January, but has regained more since, closing out 163 followers ahead at 19,760.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who has been criticised by Labor for his Facebook posts about the US Capitol attacks and Covid-19, has not tweeted since April 2020, but lost 147 followers over 9 to 11 January. Since then, however, he has made up ground, adding 172 followers in total to 8,760.

Hanson remains one of the most popular politicians on Facebook. On Tuesday she had the top two posts on Facebook among all Australian federal politicians.