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QAnon groups hit by Facebook crackdown

Facebook took down thousands of accounts, pages and groups as part an effort to limit violent rhetoric tied to QAnon, political militias and protest groups.
Donald Trump Holds MAGA Rally In Johnson City, Tennesee
Supporters of President Donald Trump wearing QAnon T-shirts wait in line before a campaign rally at Freedom Hall in Johnson City, Tenn., on Oct. 1, 2018.Sean Rayford / Getty Images file

Facebook on Wednesday banned about 900 pages and groups and 1,500 ads tied to the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon, part of a sweeping action that also restricted the reach of over 10,000 Instagram pages and almost 2,000 Facebook groups pushing the baseless conspiracy theory, which has spawned real-world violence.

Facebook also took down thousands of accounts, pages and groups as part of what it called a "policy expansion," seeking to limit violent rhetoric tied to QAnon, political militias and protest groups like antifa.

QAnon is an elaborate, unfounded conspiracy theory alleging that President Donald Trump is secretly saving the world from a group of prominent satanic cannibals who run the world. The group has been linked to several violent, criminal incidents, including a train hijacking, kidnappings, a police chase and a murder.

The new policy says "Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts associated with these movements and organizations will be removed when they discuss potential violence."

QAnon, militia movements and violent movements tied to protests will no longer be allowed to buy ads on Facebook. QAnon ads, which often pushed merchandise, were allowed on the platform before Wednesday's announcement.

Facebook will now downrank QAnon, militia and anarchist protest groups on users' News Feeds and in Facebook and Instagram's search engines. The groups and accounts will no longer be featured in the "recommendations" sidebar on similar pages. The ban will also prohibit fundraising based on hashtags related to the movements on Facebook and Instagram.

Over the last month, since supporters of the group were largely banned from Twitter, QAnon believers co-opted the hashtag "#SaveTheChildren" to evade bans and recruit otherwise apolitical followers.

A Facebook spokesperson said the enforcement actions will continue as the company works to evolve its strategy.

"This doesn't mean we've captured all of the ones we want to restrict yet," the spokesperson said. "We 100 percent know that they're going to change their terminology. We don't think we're flipping a switch and this won't be a discussion in a week."