Facebook announced on Oct. 6 that it’s banning all QAnon accounts, regardless of whether they contain violent content, representing an amplification of earlier efforts by the social media giant to ban accounts associated with the movement that explicitly discussed violence.
The initiative, according to an updated policy on how Facebook deals with “movements and organizations tied to violence” more broadly, seeks to disrupt the ability of “militarized social movements” to advance their agendas by means of the company’s platforms, including via Facebook pages, groups, and Instagram accounts.
“Starting today, we will remove any Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts representing QAnon, even if they contain no violent content,” Facebook said in a statement on Twitter.
Facebook also said in the policy update that, in the month following its Aug. 19 announcement of a crackdown on online militancy, the company removed 1,500 pages and groups linked to QAnon and more than 6,500 pages and groups tied to more than 300 militarized social movements.
“For militia organizations and those encouraging riots, including some who may identify as Antifa, we’ve initially removed over 980 groups, 520 pages and 160 ads from Facebook,” the social media company said in an Aug. 19 statement, which Facebook included in the updated policy. “We’ve also restricted over 1,400 hashtags related to these groups and organizations on Instagram,” it added. The Oct. 6 update makes no mention of any specific groups aside from QAnon.
“Our Dangerous Organizations Operations team is starting to enforce this updated policy today and is removing content accordingly, but this work will take time and will continue in the coming days and weeks,” Facebook said in a statement.
The enhanced enforcement efforts come after Facebook changed its advertising guidelines last week, banning QAnon-related ads as well as those that “praise, support or represent militarized social movements.”
While opinions vary as to its nature and intent, QAnon is a movement that started on 4chan and 8chan message boards with a trickle of clandestine-sounding posts, often centered on the theme of big government plots to curb individual liberties and advance so-called deep state and globalist agendas. It grew into a large underground movement with a number of splinter groups and sometimes claims that members of the world’s social, economic, and political elites have engaged in child sex trafficking, abuse, and cannibalism.
Nearly half of Americans were aware of QAnon as of early September, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Nearly 3 in 4 survey-takers said QAnon is either “very bad” or “somewhat bad” for the country. About 4 in 10 (41 percent) Republicans believe QAnon is a good thing for the country, compared to just 7 percent of Democrats, according to the Pew poll.
President Donald Trump has said he doesn’t know much about the movement but appreciated that the people involved “like me very much.”
“These are people that don’t like seeing what’s going on in places like Portland and places like Chicago and New York and other cities and states. And I’ve heard these are people that love our country, and they just don’t like seeing it,” Trump said on Aug. 19.
When a reporter asked if the president believes in a QAnon theory that he is saving the world from satanic pedophiles, Trump replied: “Is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing?
“I mean, you know, if I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it. I’m willing to put myself out there,” Trump said.
“And we are, actually. We’re saving the world from a radical-left philosophy that will destroy this country,” the president said. “And when this country is gone, the rest of the world would follow. The rest of the world would follow. That’s the importance of this country.”
Meanwhile, far-left groups are increasingly using memes and other online propaganda to instigate violence against members of the general public and the police, according to a new report by a nonprofit that studies the way hate-charged messages spread across social media.
The Sept. 14 report by the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) found that anarcho-socialist and violent anarchist online communities have had a growing influence in recent years, thanks to the widespread use of memes as propaganda, spread by means of sophisticated communication networks, and used to organize militias and inspire violence (pdf).
Reports about growing online militancy and related crackdowns by social media companies come at a politically sensitive time, when protests have been marred by outbreaks of looting and violence.
Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.