Facebook will ban groups, accounts and pages linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory, the tech company has announced.
The unsubstantiated and wide-ranging conspiracy theory, which claims that a secret, satanic paedophile ring controls powerful organisations, has grown in recent months, due to uncertainty surrounding coronavirus and increased time spent online.
“We will remove any Facebook pages, groups and Instagram accounts representing QAnon,” Facebook said yesterday, “even if they contain no violent content.”
Facebook has already removed or restricted a number of posts that share QAnon content with violent intent. According to yesterday’s statement, the platform has taken down 1,500 pages and groups for QAnon that contain “discussions of potential violence”. It will now step up its efforts to control the spread of the conspiracy theory.
“Our Dangerous Organizations Operations team will continue to enforce this policy and proactively detect content for removal instead of relying on user reports,” Facebook said. “These are specialists who study and respond to new evolutions in violating content from this movement and their internal detection has provided better leads in identifying new evolutions in violating content than sifting through user reports.”
Matthew McGregor, campaigns director at anti-extremism group Hope not Hate told VICE News that while Facebook’s announcement is a positive step, the action could have come sooner. "If Facebook follows through on this announcement, it would be a welcome, but long overdue, step towards limiting the further spread of the poisonous QAnon conspiracy theory,” he said.
“It will only work if Facebook's resolve matches their words; we've already seen how QAnon is using coded language and adopting new names to evade bans and reach a wider audience,” he continued. “Removing it from the platform entirely will require in-depth knowledge and constant vigilance for months or years to come.”
Banning QAnon from Facebook could also further marginalise those who believe in the conspiracy theory.
“Banning QAnon groups, accounts and pages is likely to work because when people search for the information, it won't be there,” Karen Douglas, professor of social psychology at the University of Kent, said. “However, this is likely to further marginalise strong believers in conspiracy theories like this. They already know that they are a minority group and that most others don't agree with them. Banning them is likely to make them feel more marginalised and more committed to their views, and they will likely look for other ways to spread those views.”