YouTube launched a new crackdown on QAnon videos on Thursday, dealing another major setback to the pro-Trump conspiracy movement one week after Facebook launched its own purge of QAnon accounts.
In its announcement, YouTube said it would delete “content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence.”
That description, the site notes, would apply to QAnon, which the FBI considers a source of potential domestic terrorism. QAnon believers have been charged with a number of crimes that appear to be inspired by their support of the conspiracy theory, including two murders, a terrorist act, and child abductions.
“Today we’re further expanding both our hate and harassment policies to prohibit content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence,” YouTube said in a statement. “One example would be content that threatens or harasses someone by suggesting they are complicit in one of these harmful conspiracies, such as QAnon or Pizzagate.”
It’s not clear how many videos will be deleted under the new policy, which YouTube plans to start enforcing today. But the prohibition on alleging that people or groups are involved in the cabal-like conspiracy sketched out by QAnon could result in a massive purge of QAnon videos, although it’s not clear how prevalent QAnon content is on the site.
The new YouTube policy doesn’t qualify as an official QAnon ban, but YouTube expects that it will drastically impact the QAnon community on the site. An earlier YouTube crackdown in 2019 resulted in tens of thousands of QAnon videos being deleted, while a change to the site’s algorithms caused recommendations pushing people to QAnon channels to plunge, according to the platform.
The new policy changes come three days after YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki refused to commit to a full QAnon ban in an interview, saying instead that YouTube was “looking very closely at QAnon.” YouTube had become an even more important base for QAnon believers after the Facebook ban forced QAnon promoters to look for other platforms to host their content.
Almost since its start in late 2017, QAnon has thrived on YouTube. A 24/7 YouTube livestream about QAnon called “Patriot’s Soapbox” became one of QAnon’s earliest forums, and has become influential enough on the right that Republican candidates for Congress appear on it.
Viral YouTube videos with names like “Out of Shadows” and “The Plan to Save the World” packaged QAnon content in a more visually appealing way, pulling in new adherents and earning praise from celebrities like former baseball pitcher Curt Schilling.
QAnon groups have also used YouTube to harass people. Former actor Isaac Kappy rose to fame in QAnon-world with YouTube videos accusing various Hollywood celebrities, without evidence, of being involved in Satanic pedophile rituals. While Kappy had no evidence for his claims, the videos were viewed as foundational “proof” in the QAnon community, creating bogus pedophile allegations that continue to inspire threats against the figures Kappy targeted.