- Facebook removed several pages and groups associated with QAnon last month, the company disclosed Tuesday.
- QAnon is a conspiracy theory that alleges Donald Trump is secretly arresting celebrities and Democrats for crimes including pedophilia and cannibalism.
- Facebook didn’t remove the pages for spreading false information, but rather for using a network of fake profiles to circulate their content.
- The QAnon pages that Facebook removed had over 133,000 followers, and over 30,000 people were members of the groups.
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Facebook has banned a handful of pages, groups, and accounts connected to the QAnon conspiracy theory for “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” in advance of the 2020 election, the company disclosed Tuesday.
QAnon is a sweeping conspiracy theory popular with some extremely-online members of Donald Trump’s base. The theory, which began as a series of posts to the anonymous messaging board 8chan, posits that Trump is in the process of secretly arresting high-profile Democrats, Hollywood celebrities, and other elites for crimes ranging from pedophilia to cannibalism.
Facebook’s removal of the 11 groups and pages – which were followed by over 133,000 Facebook users – is the most decisive action that it’s taken so far to curb the spread of the conspiracy theory.
But Facebook clarified that the QAnon pages weren’t removed for spreading false information. Rather, the pages broke Facebook’s policy against “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” by using fake accounts to boost their engagement.
“The people behind this activity used fake accounts – some of which had already been detected and disabled by our automated systems – to create fictitious personas, like and comment on their own content making it appear more popular than it is, manage Pages and Groups, and evade detection and enforcement,” Facebook said in its April report on coordinated inauthentic behaviour.
The report said that, “although the people behind this operation attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with QAnon, a network known to spread fringe conspiracy theories.”
Facebook’s action comes more than two years after Trump gave steam to the QAnon movement by retweeting several proponents of the theory. The QAnon community has recently worked to amplify some of Trump’s inflammatory claims about COVID-19, including the suggestion that people try ingesting bleach as a potential cure.
In addition to the QAnon groups, Facebook banned a network of fake pages that it says were being run by the anti-immigration group VDARE. The removal is notable given the sheer amount of advertising dollars the pages were able to spend before Facebook banned them – the pages bought over $US144,000 in Facebook ads, the company disclosed.
Read Facebook’s April coordinated inauthentic behaviour report in full here.