Facebook on Tuesday struck a massive blow against the conspiracy theory known as QAnon, banning pages, groups and accounts that spread the baseless theory from its platform.
According to NBC News, the move is “a significant escalation over its previous actions and one of the broadest rules the social media giant has put in place in its history.” Earlier this year Facebook had announced a ban on any accounts associated with QAnon that specifically discussed violence, but the new action has banned all such accounts.
“Starting today, we will remove Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts for representing QAnon. We’re starting to enforce this updated policy today and are removing content accordingly, but this work will take time and will continue in the coming days and weeks,” Facebook said in a statement Tuesday night. “Our Dangerous Organizations Operations team will continue to enforce this policy and proactively detect content for removal instead of relying on user reports.”
A company spokesperson told NBC that the new move will “bring to parity what we’ve been doing on other pieces of policy with regard to militarized social movements,” such as militia and terror groups that repeatedly call for violence.
Social media giants are often accused of half measures and toothless actions, but that doesn’t appear to have been the case this time.
“Facebook’s QAnon ban seems to have been really broad and effective,” New York Times columnist Kevin Roose, who has covered QAnon extensively, wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “Everyone in one of the QAnon-adjacent groups I follow is talking about how all their favorite groups are gone.”
“On my list, there are now only five Facebook groups, nine pages and 19 Instagram accounts remaining with more than 10,000 members, likes or followers,” researcher Shayan Sardarizadeh tweeted. “I can’t stress how huge this is. Gone are pretty much all the major QAnon groups/pages with tens of thousands of members/likes.”
Twitter had announced a similar crackdown in July.
QAnon is a sprawling conspiracy theory, which emerged in the early days of the Trump era, in which an anonymous message board poster claiming to be a government insider has alleged various evil deeds by a “cabal” that includes Hollywood stars and most Democratic politicians. The primary accusation is that the “cabal” is participated in pedophilia and/or child sex trafficking, and that President Trump is always on the verge of announcing mass arrests or executions of that cabal.
More far-flung versions of the theory allege that John F. Kennedy, Jr., faked his own death in 1999 and is in fact “Q,” and that the members of the “cabal” have already been executed, and replaced by doubles. More recently, some QAnon supporters have been holding in-person events with the innocuous-sounding message “Save the Children,” while accusing their political enemies of trafficking children.
QAnon accounts, in addition to the main theory, have frequently pushed misinformation and disinformation about the coronavirus, while also spreading false memes about the “earpiece” Joe Biden was allegedly wearing during the first presidential debate.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.