Facebook is amping up its crackdown on the pro-Trump conspiracy theory known as QAnon is a big way, banning any group, page or Instagram account that openly identifies with the rapidly growing fringe movement. It’s a significant escalation from Facebook’s earlier vow to ban QAnon accounts calling for violence, which was criticized for not doing enough to stem the tide of one of the fastest spreading conspiracies of the digital era.
“We’ve been vigilant in enforcing our policy and studying its impact on the platform but we’ve seen several issues that led to today’s update,” Facebook wrote.
QAnon is a broad umbrella that houses many disparate conspiracies, but the core gist is that President Donald Trump is on a secret mission to rid the world of a powerful, Satan-worshipping cabal of pedophiles. The conspiracy has pulled in various threads of other false information, like that COVID-19 was created to hurt Trump or George Floyd’s death was part of a sinister hoax. Over the last few months, QAnon groups have been pushing a concern for child trafficking as their raison d’être — leveraging a genuine and tragic issue as a way to legitimize the movement’s more crackpot notions.
While QAnon began on seedy, image-sharing message boards, its move to Facebook led to explosive growth — particularly among Christians, many of whom grafted the QAnon worldview onto their own evangelical culture war mentality. In August, one scholar found that QAnon activity on Facebook had grown over 61 percent since March.
Being banned on the world’s biggest platform is a blow to the movement’s growth, no doubt, but it may also fuel conspiracies about shadowy influencers trying to clamp down on the “truth.” That’s the thing about conspiracies — the more you try to convince someone that they’re not true, the more they become convinced that you’re the one who’s been misled.