OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) —
Facebook said it will ban groups that openly support QAnon, the baseless conspiracy theory that paints President Donald Trump as a secret warrior against a supposed child-trafficking ring run by celebrities and “deep state” government officials.
The company said Tuesday that it will remove Facebook pages, groups and Instagram accounts for “representing QAnon” — even if they don’t promote violence. The social network said it will consider a variety of factors to decide if a group meets its criteria for a ban, including its name, the biography or “about” section of the page, and discussions within the page, group or Instagram account.
Mentions of QAnon in a group focused on a different subject won’t necessarily lead to a ban, Facebook said. Administrators of banned groups will have their personal accounts disabled as well.
Less than two months ago, Facebook said it would stop promoting the group and its adherents, although it faltered with spotty enforcement. It said it would only remove QAnon groups if they promote violence. That is no longer the case.
The company said it started to enforce the policy Tuesday but cautioned that it “will take time and will continue in the coming days and weeks.”
Critics called it a much-needed, though belated, move by Facebook.
“Now that they have announced that they will treat the QAnon ideology like the very real threat that it is, we hope that they will follow up with some modicum of evidence showing how the ban is being enforced and whether it is fully effective,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League and one of the founders of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which organized a Facebook boycott by advertisers.
But the conspiracy theory has already seeped into mainstream politics. Several Republican running for
QAnon followers are scrambling for a new digital home after Facebook issued a blanket ban on the movement’s pages on Tuesday, in what looks likely to be the most significant social media crackdown in the history of the pro-Trump conspiracy movement.
Faced with a wide-ranging purge, QAnon followers dreaming of the day Donald Trump orders the mass arrests of his opponents are faced with a choice: flee to another, more Trumpian, social network, or try to go underground on Facebook by disassociating their QAnon groups from the increasingly toxic QAnon brand.
Facebook was uniquely valuable to QAnon believers, according to Travis View, a QAnon researcher and co-host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, because it offered a huge well of potential followers, as well as a “group” function for QAnon believers to radicalize one another.
For years on Facebook, QAnon followers were more or less free to talk about their bizarre beliefs, ranging from the theory that Donald Trump is engaged in a shadowy war against a cabal of Satanic pedophile-cannibals in the media and the Democratic Party to the conviction that Trump will soon order the mass arrests and executions of his foes.
“There were millions of aggregate followers across hundreds of Facebook QAnon groups,” View told The Daily Beast. “It was a huge place, a huge recruiting ground, even, for less tech-savvy QAnon followers.”
That changed Tuesday, when Facebook grouped QAnon into a policy that amounts to a blanket ban on postings from violent social groups. A number of QAnon pages had managed to survive an earlier, lighter crackdown in August that eliminated nearly 800 groups on Facebook and Instagram. But the Tuesday purge went much further, knocking out nearly all of the major QAnon Facebook groups. The new ban extended to non-English QAnon pages, too, including a Quebec
Citigroup has fired a senior vice president in the bank’s technology department after probing his outside job running the most prominent website devoted to QAnon, a debunked yet popular conspiracy theory.
Jason Gelinas was put on paid leave in September after being identified as the person behind the site QMap.pub and related mobile apps. His role was first reported by Logically.ai, a fact-checking site.
“Mr. Gelinas is no longer employed by Citi. Our code of conduct includes specific policies that employees are required to adhere to, and when breaches are identified, the firm takes action,” a spokesperson for the bank told CBS MoneyWatch.
“As outlined in our code of conduct, employees are required to disclose and obtain approvals for outside business activities,” the spokesperson added.
It was hardly a typical side hustle, according to media accounts of Gelinas’s alleged moonlighting. The former Citi executive is credited with helping transform an obscure and incoherent conspiracy cult into one affecting mainstream politics, with QAnon supporter and Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greenein the U.S. House of Representatives.
Popular among a group of supporters of President Donald Trump, theincludes claims that celebrities routinely participate in child sex trafficking and pedophilia. At its center is “Q,” an anonymous user who started writing about the conspiracies on website 4chan.
Gelinas was raking in more than $3,000 monthly from a crowdfunded Patreon site dedicated to supporting the QAnon site, which he said helped cover its operating costs, according to Bloomberg News.
Along with his Wall Street job and running QAnon’s largest news-aggregation hub, Gelinas lived what appeared to be a normal suburban life, with a house, wife and children in New Jersey, according to the business news service.
(Reuters) – Online marketplace Etsy Inc is removing all QAnon merchandise from its site, a spokeswoman told Reuters on Wednesday, the latest in a series of platform crackdowns on the unfounded and sprawling conspiracy theory. WHAT IS QANON?
QAnon followers espouse an intertwined series of beliefs, based on anonymous Web postings from “Q,” who claims to have insider knowledge of the Trump administration.
A core tenet of the conspiracy theory is that U.S. President Donald Trump is secretly fighting a cabal of child-sex predators that includes prominent Democrats, Hollywood elites and “deep state” allies.
QAnon, which borrows some elements from the bogus “pizzagate” theory about a pedophile ring run out of a Washington, D.C., restaurant, has become a “big tent” conspiracy theory encompassing misinformation about topics ranging from alien landings to vaccine safety.
Followers of QAnon say a so-called Great Awakening is coming to bring salvation.
HOW HAS IT SPREAD ONLINE?
The “Q” posts, which started in 2017 on the message board 4chan, are now posted on 8kun, a rebranded version of the shuttered web board 8chan. QAnon has been amplified on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, the video streaming service of Alphabet Inc’s Google.
Media investigations have shown that social media recommendation algorithms can drive people who show an interest in conspiracy theories toward more material.
A report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) found that the number of users engaging in discussion of QAnon on Twitter and Facebook have surged this year, with membership of QAnon groups on Facebook growing by 120% in March.
Researchers say Russian government-supported organizations are playing a small but increasing role in amplifying the conspiracy theories.
QAnon backers helped organize real-life protests against child trafficking in August and were involved in a pro-police demonstration in Portland, Oregon.
QAnon also looks
Facebook said Tuesday that it’ll take down Facebook pages, groups and Instagram accounts representing QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory that falsely alleges there’s a “deep state” plot against President Donald Trump, even if posts don’t contain violent content.
The social network’s tougher stance comes afterthat it would remove these QAnon accounts, pages and groups when they discussed potential violence, and would limit the reach of users tied to the movement.
Facebook said it’s taking strong action against QAnon content because it’s seen posts that included different forms of harm, such as false claims that certain groups started the west coast wildfires. Misinformation about the wildfires diverted the attention of local officials fighting the fires.
“Additionally, QAnon messaging changes very quickly and we see networks of supporters build an audience with one message and then quickly pivot to another. We aim to combat this more effectively with this update that strengthens and expands our enforcement against the conspiracy theory movement,” Facebook said.
The social network said it removed more than 1,500 QAnon pages and groups that contained discussions of potential violence. The company also pulled down over 6,500 pages and groups tied to more than 300 militarized social movements.
At the same time, Facebook has been criticized by advocacy groups and politicians for not acting quickly enough to curb the spread of QAnon content. Some lawmakers praised Facebook for taking a tougher stance against QAnon but said they’d keep an eye on how the policy gets implemented.
“Ultimately the real test will be whether Facebook actually takes measures to enforce these new policies — we’ve seen