Facebook removes hundreds of QAnon conspiracy groups

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Facebook has said it had removed nearly 800 QAnon conspiracy groups for articles celebrating violence, showing intent to use weapons, or bringing followers with patterns of violent behaviour.

The world’s largest social media company, saying it was expanding its coverage on perceived dangers to public safety, also imposed restrictions on the remaining 1,950 public and private QAnon groups it could find. It will no longer urge them to users and make them less likely to be discovered in searches.

Thousands and thousands of Facebook users are known to belong to one or more QAnon classes, but Facebook declined to provide more precise figures.

Facebook also removed 980 groups that it stated encouraged rioting, a majority seen as generally right-wing militias but a significant number identified as part of the leftist antifa movement.

The long-anticipated take-downs come amid sustained criticism as QAnon action has jumped on Facebook this season. Twitter previously removed thousands of QAnon accounts.

QAnon began in the aftermath of the “pizzagate” conspiracy that claimed, before the 2016 presidential election, that prominent Democrats were running a paedophile ring out of the cellar of a Washington restaurant.

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It centres on anonymous postings from someone using the nickname Q who claims to be a high official in the administration of President Donald Trump. Q and his most-followed supporters idolise Trump and have claimed that Democratic and Hollywood elites worship the devil, eat children, and sometimes have already been executed after secret military tribunals and replaced by celebrities.

A vocal QAnon supporter last week won the GOP congressional primary in a conservative Georgia district, drawing praise from Trump, who has declined to disavow the motion.

Asked Wednesday about the QAnon belief he was saving the world from satanic cannibals, Trump said, “Is that supposed to be a bad thing? … We are saving the world, from a radical left philosophy.”

The FBI identifies QAnon as a possible source of domestic violence, and a number of its followers are charged with murder and kidnapping.

Facebook has considered some establishments to be inherently dangerous and banned them, and some critics had urged the company to do the same with QAnon.

“Taking down groups and pages, restricting others, and banning hashtags is a step, but an insufficient one,” said Cindy Otis, a former CIA analyst using a new book on misinformation.

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A Facebook spokeswoman acknowledged that QAnon followers would begin new groups with new code words, and that the effort to restrain them are an ongoing struggle.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco. Editing by Paul Simao, Greg Mitchell and Tom Brown.

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