Facebook announced a sweeping ban on QAnon activity Tuesday, vowing to delete content related to the pro-Trump conspiracy theory movement on its platforms.
“Starting today, we will remove any Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts representing QAnon, even if they contain no violent content,” the company said in a press release.
The crackdown follows an earlier attempt to stop the spread of QAnon on Facebook in August. But while that initial purge removed 1,500 pages and groups connected to QAnon for what Facebook called “discussions of potential violence,” the new rule announced Tuesday goes further, deleting QAnon content even when it isn’t directly tied to violence.
“We’ve been vigilant in enforcing our policy and studying its impact on the platform but we’ve seen several issues that led to today’s update,” Facebook said in its statement. “For example, while we’ve removed QAnon content that celebrates and supports violence, we’ve seen other QAnon content tied to different forms of real world harm, including recent claims that the west coast wildfires were started by certain groups, which diverted attention of local officials from fighting the fires and protecting the public.”
QAnon has proliferated on Facebook, with a Guardian report in August finding that top QAnon groups had amassed 4.5 million followers. QAnon followers on Facebook have played a key role in spreading disinformation on the platform, including promoting the viral coronavirus disinformation video “Plandemic.”
Now Facebook says it will treat QAnon the same way it treats militia groups classified as “Militarized Social Movements,” automatically deleting activity even if it doesn’t explicitly call for violence.
Facebook has also started adding credible resource links to posts connected to “Save the Children,” a QAnon front movement that has spread across the internet during the coronavirus pandemic.
QAnon believers follow clues from an anonymous figure named “Q,” which they believe lay out an anti-Semitic worldview in which President Donald Trump is engaged in a shadowy war against a cabal of Satanic, blood-drinking cannibal-pedophiles in the Democratic Party.
QAnon fans are convinced Trump will soon order the mass arrests and even executions of his political foes and often fantasize about the violence they hope will come.