CHICAGO (AP) — Facebook and Twitter promised to stop encouraging the growth of the baseless conspiracy theory QAnon, which fashions President Donald Trump as a secret warrior against a supposed child-trafficking ring run by celebrities and government officials, after it reached an audience of millions on their platforms this year.
But the social media companies still aren’t enforcing even the limited restrictions they’ve recently put in place to stem the tide of dangerous QAnon material, a review by The Associated Press found. Both platforms have vowed to stop “suggesting” QAnon material to users, a powerful way of introducing QAnon to new people.
But neither has actually succeeded at that.
On Wednesday, hours after a chaotic debate between Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, a video from a QAnon account that falsely claimed Biden wore a wire to cheat during the event was trending on Twitter, for example.
Twitter is even still running ads against QAnon material, in effect profiting off the type of tweets that its vowed to limit. And in some cases Facebook is still automatically directing users to follow public and secret QAnon pages or groups, the AP found.
“Their algorithm worked to radicalize people and really gave this conspiracy theory a megaphone with which to expand,” Sophie Bjork-James, an anthropologist at Vanderbilt University who studies QAnon, said of social platforms. “They are responsible for shutting down that megaphone. And time and time again they are proving unwilling.”
The QAnon phenomenon sprawls across a patchwork of secret Facebook groups, Twitter accounts and YouTube videos. QAnon has been linked to real-world violence such as criminal reports of kidnapping and dangerous claims that the coronavirus is a hoax. But the conspiracy theory has also seeped into mainstream politics. Several Republican running for Congress this year are QAnon-friendly.