Facebook has banned about 900 pages and groups and 1,500 ads tied to the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon, as part of a drive to limit the spread of the dangerous ideology online.
On Wednesday, Facebook also restricted the reach of over 10,000 Instagram pages and almost 2,000 Facebook groups promoting QAnon, which has spawned real-world violence.
The social media giant also took down thousands of accounts, pages and groups as part of what they called a ‘policy expansion,’ seeking to limit violent rhetoric tied to QAnon, political militias and protest groups like Antifa.
Facebook has been under immense pressure to clamp down on hate speech and dangerous conspiracy theories, both of which are found in abundance on the site.
QAnon believers think Donald Trump has been sent to wage war on Satanist pedophiles
Facebook on Wednesday announced a series of steps to reduce QAnon’s visibility on their site
Last year the company announced new policies to reduce the visibility of vaccine misinformation on its platform, including rejecting advertising and excluding groups and pages from search results that spread ‘vaccine hoaxes.’
Facebook has since June been studying the QAnon movement – a wide-ranging, unfounded conspiracy theory that says that Donald Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping pedophiles in government, business and the media.
On Wednesday they confirmed their new policy, which states: ‘Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts associated with these movements and organizations will be removed when they discuss potential violence.’
QAnon, militia movements and violent movements tied to protests will now no longer be allowed to purchase ads on Facebook.
QAnon ads, which often pushed merchandise, were allowed on the platform before Wednesday’s announcement.
Supporters of the QAnon theory protest in Oregon in May. Facebook has conducted an internal investigation into the conspiracy theorists, and found that millions back the group
Facebook will now deliberately push down in its rankings QAnon, militia and anarchist protest groups on users’ News Feeds and in Facebook and Instagram’s search engines.
The groups and accounts will no longer be featured in the ‘recommendations’ sidebar on similar pages.
The new ban will also prohibit fundraising based on hashtags related to these movements on Facebook and Instagram.
Several Republican candidates for Congress have openly expressed support for QAnon, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, who recently declared that QAnon was ‘a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this supposed global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.’
On August 11 she triumphed in her House primary runoff election in Georgia, all but ensuring that she will represent a deep-red district in Congress.
Over the last month, since supporters of the group were largely banned from Twitter, QAnon believers begun using the hashtag ‘#SaveTheChildren,’ as a means to evade bans and recruit otherwise apolitical followers.
A Facebook spokesperson said the enforcement actions will continue as the company works to evolve its strategy.
‘This doesn’t mean we’ve captured all of the ones we want to restrict yet,’ the spokesperson told NBC.
‘We 100 percent know that they’re going to change their terminology. We don’t think we’re flipping a switch and this won’t be a discussion in a week.’
On August 10 the results an internal investigation by Facebook, reviewed by NBC News, showed that QAnon sites and groups had proliferated on the platform.
The top 10 groups identified in the investigation collectively contain more than one million members, with totals from more top groups and pages pushing the number of members and followers past three million.
It is not clear how much overlap there is among the groups.
Cartoons promoting QAnon circulate widely on Facebook, and are being investigated
QAnon supporters have been prevented by Google from selling their wares
Believers in the conspiracy theory see Donald Trump as taking on a cabal of Satanists
A small team working this summer across several of Facebook’s departments found 185 advertisements that the company had accepted ‘praising, supporting, or representing’ QAnon, according to an internal post shared among more than 400 employees, and obtained by NBC.
The ads generated about $12,000 for Facebook and four million impressions in the last 30 days.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company has routinely enforced its rules on QAnon groups.
Last week, Facebook removed a QAnon group with nearly 200,000 members ‘for repeatedly posting content that violated our policies.’
QAnon supporters rally in Portland, Oregon, in August 2019, showing their support for Trump
Some of Trump’s supporters believe in the QAnon theory, and show their faith at his rallies
‘Enforcing against QAnon on Facebook is not new: we consistently take action against accounts, Groups, and Pages tied to QAnon that break our rules,’ the spokesperson said.
‘Just last week, we removed a large Group with QAnon affiliations for violating our content policies, and removed a network of accounts for violating our policies against coordinated inauthentic behavior.
‘We have teams assessing our policies against QAnon and are currently exploring additional actions we can take.’
On Sunday The Daily Telegraph reported that Google is blocking shopping searches related to QAnon.
In July, Twitter announced it had banned 7,000 QAnon accounts for breaking its rules around platform manipulation, misinformation and harassment.
Twitter also said it would no longer recommend QAnon accounts and content, would stop such content from appearing in trends and search, and would block QAnon’s internet links.