A new Facebook policy will see all profiles linked to the QAnon conspiracy community wiped from the platform whether or not they promote violence, the company’s latest crackdown on what it claims is a dangerous movement.
Facebook announced the new measures on Tuesday, explaining that the decision updates a policy imposed in August targeting QAnon accounts “containing discussions of potential violence,” broadening the ban to any profiles affiliated with the movement. The policy will also apply to Instagram.
“Starting today, we will remove any Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts representing QAnon, even if they contain no violent content,” the company said, arguing that the group is tied to other types of “real world harm.”
“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.”
The initial ban on accounts promoting violence saw over 1,500 QAnon pages and groups scrubbed from the platform, as well as more than 6,500 linked to other “militarized social movements,” including Antifa and various militia groups. However, the new sweeping ban does not appear to apply to the other movements, singling out the pro-Trump conspiracy community by name.
The move has been blasted as another clamp-down on free expression online, with even some self-avowed opponents of QAnon deeming it “chilling for free speech.”
Others questioned why the new ban targeted QAnon alone, even as a number of militant left-wing groups openly “discuss which city they are going to burn down next.”
Some countered the free speech proponents, however, calling to deplatform “dangerous disinformation” and “QAnon cult followers,” among them Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-Virginia) and California state Senator Scott Wiener. Others said the decision should have been made long ago.
Facebook is not the only platform to attempt to purge its Q-friendly users, as Twitter announced its own massive ban of up to 150,000 QAnon-related accounts, blacklisting the group in its recommendations and Trends tabs while barring any associated web links. Like Facebook, Twitter alleged the group’s behavior had “the potential to lead to offline harm,” also citing “coordinated harmful activity” and “platform manipulation.”
The QAnon movement gained prominence after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016. While the group embraces a range of theories, some more outlandish than others, many center on the notion that a secretive cabal of Satan worshippers and child sex traffickers has infiltrated world governments, and that the president is working to bring them down.