Facebook Purges 790 QAnon Groups In Conspiracy Crackdown
790 QAnon groups have been removed from Facebook, as the social network launched its latest and broadest moderation sweep on the platform.
To complete its crackdown on the right-wing conspiracy movement, Facebook took down or restricted 10,000 more groups, pages, and Instagram accounts associated with QAnon, and blocked related hashtags like #digitalarmy and #thestorm.
“We have seen growing movements that, while not directly organizing violence, have celebrated violent acts, shown that they have weapons and suggest they will use them or have individual followers with patterns of violent behavior,” Facebook said in a statement.
Four years ago, QAnon was nothing but an internet cult and a fringe phenomenon composed of members who believed and alleged that a group of Satanist pedophiles was operating a worldwide child sex-trafficking ring while plotting to take down U.S. President Donald Trump.
Their real-world influence has since grown to alarming levels in recent years, though.
Still largely driven by cryptic messages published by an anonymous user nicknamed ‘Q’ -- the Guardian reports that many QAnon groups on Facebook served as hotbeds for COVID-related misinformation.
QAnon members have shown up to pro-Trump demonstrations in the flesh, and a couple of them even ran for office themselves. Come November, avowed QAnon ally Marjorie Taylor Greene is poised to take a seat at the House after clinching a Republican primary this month.
“There needs to be a real change in how platforms think about conspiracy theories and the real-world harm they cause,” warns Cindy Otis, an anti-misinformation advocate. “Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen QAnon move much faster than the social media platforms to gain a following and push their content out.”
Facebook is not the only one responding to the threat posed by QAnon. Last month, Twitter restricted content and accounts dedicated to peddling the conspiracy theory, after the FBI formally recognized the group as a potential domestic terrorism threat.
The New York Times reported that key phrases and hashtags related to the ‘movement’ are now blocked from trending and appearing on searches.
Reddit has also banned several forums for containing QAnon content, while video-sharing app Tiktok blocked several hashtags related to the conspiracy theory.
For Otis, these actions were not implemented soon enough.
“It has taken far too many weeks, too many months, for the platforms to get their arms around what is happening,” she lamented.