Facebook bans all groups, pages linked to QAnon conspiracy

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Facebook is expanding its approach to the QAnon conspiracy movement, saying it will remove all Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts linked to QAnon’s followers in an effort to limit their reach and growth online.

Facebook had previously banned QAnon Pages, Groups and accounts if they called for or celebrated violence. But that meant Groups and Pages that peddle the QAnon conspiracies, but were not explicitly violent, remained on the service.

Now associating with QAnon is in many instances against the company’s rules, Facebook said Tuesday in a blog post. Individual accounts and posts related to QAnon are allowed on the social network, but the company imposed the ban on Groups and Pages in an effort to keep followers of the conspiracy movement from congregating. Instagram accounts linked to QAnon are also banned. The photo-sharing app doesn’t require people to use their real identities.

In the blog post, Facebook said its Dangerous Organizations Operations team will proactively seek out content tied to QAnon, instead of just relying on user reports. “This work will take time and will continue in the coming days and weeks,” the company said.

The QAnon conspiracy group has become more mainstream thanks in large part to Facebook’s products. The network’s Groups feature has allowed QAnon believers - who think that President Donald Trump is fighting a cabal of high-profile child molesters - to find one another and spread their beliefs. Facebook removed hundreds of Pages and Groups linked to the movement in August, but an internal report uncovered by NBC News found that QAnon Groups on Facebook had millions of followers.

Trump has also promoted the group through posts and retweets on his social media accounts. The Federal Bureau of Investigation labeled QAnon as a domestic terrorist threat as early as August 2019.

Facebook said it chose to update the policy after watching how QAnon Groups spread misinformation about other issues, including the recent wildfires in the western U.S.

“We’ve seen other QAnon content tied to different forms of real world harm,” the company wrote. “Additionally, QAnon messaging changes very quickly and we see networks of supporters build an audience with one message and then quickly pivot to another.”

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