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Facebook Announces Mass Banning Of All QAnon Accounts From Its Platforms

Although it's still entirely possible for the name to mean absolutely nothing to you, there's a good chance that you've at least heard the name QAnon in passing by now.

As the BBC reported, this refers to the followers of an anonymous person who has claimed to hold a high level of security clearance within the U.S. government that they call "Q Clearance." Since October 2017, this person has claimed that both the Democratic Party and various Hollywood celebrities are a part of a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles that President Donald Trump is waging a secret war against.

These followers number in the thousands, have spread across all social media platforms, and have since developed their own iconography and slogans, the most well-known of which being "Where we go one we go all" or "WWG1WGA."

In addition to this main claim Q has made, they essentially tie major events in recent history such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report that informed Trump's impeachment to these supposed secret wars. This has not only resulted in the spread of coronavirus misinformation but also harrassment campaigns and credible threats of violence.

And now, Facebook has decided they've had enough of all things QAnon.

If this seems like the work of a fringe group with no real effect on U.S. politics, it turns out that it's not quite that simple.

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As the BBC reported, at least a dozen QAnon supporters have run for Congress this year, with the most notable of them being Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

QAnon supporters have also been retweeted by President Trump and his son Eric has explicitly posted one of their memes on Instagram.

Although there is no evidence to support Q's claims, they nonetheless insist that bombshell public revelations will prove them right. When this doesn't happen, Q's supporters are not discouraged because they've come to believe that this person deliberately puts misinformation in their messages to throw people off their trail.

This means Q essentially doesn't have to write about anything to maintain the same level of support.

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In response to emerging calls for violence among QAnon supporters, Facebook first took action against the group in August.

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As NBC News reported, this led the social media giant to specifically target accounts that discussed violence while pushing QAnon conspiracy theories.

As narrow as this definition was, it nonetheless led to the banning of 1,500 accounts and groups.

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However, it soon become clear this policy didn't have the desired effect as QAnon users simply adapted to it.

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As NBC News reported, these users stopped making explicit references to Q and instead spread more or less the same messaging by "camouflaging" it under hashtags that appeared to express desires to protect children and stand against human trafficking.

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So on October 6, Facebook announced that its administration will now ban any Facebook pages, groups, and Instagram accounts that represent QAnon or push the related conspiracy theories.

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As a representative from the company stated in a press release obtained by NBC News,

"We’re starting to enforce this updated policy today and are removing content accordingly, but this work will take time and will continue in the coming days and weeks. Our Dangerous Organizations Operations team will continue to enforce this policy and proactively detect content for removal instead of relying on user reports."

This is part of a larger program to limit the ability of what the company identified as "militarized social moments" to organize on its social media platforms.

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This decision is particularly significant in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as QAnon are considered a significant driver of conspiracy theories denying the existance of the virus.

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As NBC News reported, QAnon claims of this stripe that acknowledge the coronavirus is real will nonetheless downplay its dangers.

Most recently, members of the group are claiming that President Trump never contracted it but used this as a front for secret missions in the fictitious wars Q keeps mentioning.

Joan Donovan at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy told NBC News that while Facebook's move won't stop QAnon entirely, it can potentially dismantle one of their key infrastructures for spreading misinformation.

As she said, "Of course, this all could have been done sooner, before Q factions aligned with militia groups and anti-vaxxers, to curtail the spread of medical misinformation and the mobilization of vigilante groups."

h/t: BBC, NBC News

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