(Headline USA) Facebook said it will ban groups that openly support QAnon, the mostly right-wing 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 violate the company’s arbitrary and subjective list of so-called community guidelines.’
The platform and several of its Silicon Valley counterparts have faced hot water for their dubious censorship practices, as well as accusations of monopolistic anti-competitive intentions.
Both could lead to greater regulation in the future, although that is what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has publicly claimed to want.
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.”
The QAnon phenomenon has sprawled across a patchwork of secret Facebook groups, Twitter accounts and YouTube videos in recent years.
QAnon allegedly has been linked to real-world violence such as criminal reports of kidnapping and claims that the coronavirus is a hoax.
But the conspiracy has also seeped into mainstream politics. Several Republican running for Congress this year have indicated that they are QAnon-friendly.
By the time Facebook and other social media companies began enforcing policies against QAnon, critics said it was largely too late.
Reddit, which began banning QAnon groups in 2018, was well ahead, and to date it has largely avoided having a notable QAnon presence on its platform.
“We’ve seen several issues that led to today’s update,” Facebook claimed in a blog post.
“While we’ve removed QAnon content that celebrates and supports violence, we’ve seen other QAnon content tied to different forms of real world harm, including recent claims that the west coast wildfires were started by certain groups, which diverted attention of local officials from fighting the fires and protecting the public.”
Evidence has proven that arsonists linked to far-left groups including Antifa were responsible for some of the blazes in the Pacific Northwest, including parts of Oregon. Some have been arrested and charged with the crimes.
Other radical leftists have continued to invoke arson in their rhetoric, with figures like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, D-NY, and CNN host Don Lemon threatening to “burn down” the system. Neither has been banned from Facebook to date.
Also on Tuesday, Citigroup Inc. reportedly fired a manager in its technology department after an investigation found that he operated a prominent website dedicated to QAnon.
According to Bloomberg, Jason Gelinas had been placed on paid leave after he was outed on Sept. 10 by a left-wing “fact-checking” site as the operator of the website QMap.pub and its associated mobile apps.
In a statement, Citi confirmed that Gelinas is no longer with the company and added that employees are required to abide by its code of conduct. This includes disclosing and obtaining permission for outside business activity.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press