Social Media platform Facebook Removes 790 QAnon Groups

What is QAnon?

If you spend enough of time online these days — and thanks to the Covid-19 Pandemic, many of us are — you’ve probably heard of QAnon, the sprawling internet conspiracy theory that has taken hold among some of President Trump’s supporters.

But if you are not online then you may have encounter a questions about what is going on these Days.

Conspiracy theories that allege, falsely, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against President Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring.

Big tent conspiracy theory that claims that President Trump is facing down a shadowy cabal of Democratic pedophiles.

Behind the Scene

QAnon was once a fringe phenomenon — the kind most people could safely ignore. But in recent months, it’s gone mainstream. Twitter, Facebook and other social networks have been flooded with QAnon-related false information about Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter protests and the 2020 election. QAnon supporters have also been trying to attach themselves to other activist causes, such as the anti-vaccine and anti-child-trafficking movements, in an effort to expand their ranks.

QAnon also participate offline world, with some believers charged with violent crimes, including one QAnon follower accused of murdering a mafia boss in New York last year and another who was arrested in April and accused of threatening to kill Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned that QAnon poses a potential domestic terror threat.

QAnon Power

Last week, QAnon reached a new milestone when Marjorie Taylor Greene, an avowed QAnon supporter from Georgia, won a Republican primary in a heavily conservative district, setting her up for a near-certain election to Congress in November. After Ms. Greene’s win, Mr. Trump called her a “future Republican star.”

QAnon is an incredibly convoluted theory, and you could fill an entire book explaining its various tributaries and sub-theories. But here are some basic things you should know.

QAnon followers believe that this clique includes top Democrats including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and George Soros, as well as a number of entertainers and Hollywood celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Ellen DeGeneres and religious figures including Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama. Many of them also believe that, in addition to molesting children, members of this group kill and eat their victims in order to extract a life-extending chemical from their blood.

As said by QAnon group, President Trump was recruited by top military generals to run for president in 2016 in order to break up this criminal conspiracy, end its control of politics and the media, and bring its members to justice.

Is that Final?

Not by a long shot. Since it began, QAnon has incorporated elements of many other conspiracy theory communities, including claims about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the existence of U.F.O.s, and the 9/11 “truther” movement.

QAnon Anonymous, a podcast about the QAnon movement, calls QAnon a “big tent conspiracy theory” because it is constantly evolving and adding new features and claims. But the existence of a global pedophile cabal is the core tenet of QAnon, and the one that most, if not all, of its followers believe.

How did this all start?

In the Month of October 2017, a post appeared, the notoriously toxic message board, from an anonymous account calling itself “Q Clearance Patriot.” This poster, who became known simply as “Q,” claimed to be a high-ranking intelligence officer with access to classified information about President Trump’s war against the global cabal.

Q predicted that this war would soon culminate in “The Storm” — an appointed time when Mr. Trump would finally unmask the cabal, punish its members for their crimes and restore America to greatness.

Why is it called ‘The Storm’?

President Trump made a remark with senior military leaders in 2017 that QAnon believers have pointed to as proof of the president’s plan to break up a cabal.

QAnon believers pointed to this moment as proof that President Trump was sending coded messages about his plans to break up the global cabal, with the help of the military.

Who is Q?

Q’s identity is still unknown, although there have been hints and speculation about it for years. Some speculate that a single internet troll has been posting as Q the entire time; others say that multiple people are involved in posting as Q, or that Q’s identity has changed over time.

What FaceBook Did?

Facebook’s action on Wednesday was its most sweeping against the QAnon conspiracy theory, which supporters promote with Q signs. 

Facebook said on Wednesday that it had removed 790 QAnon groups from its site and was restricting another 1,950 groups, 440 pages and more than 10,000 Instagram accounts related to the right-wing conspiracy theory, in the social network’s most sweeping action against the fast-growing movement.

Facebook’s takedown followed record growth of QAnon groups on the site, much of it since the coronavirus pandemic began in March. Activity on some of the largest QAnon groups on the social network, including likes, comments and shares of posts, rose 200 to 300 percent in the last six months, according to data gathered by The New York Times.

“We have seen growing movements that, while not directly organizing violence, have celebrated violent acts, shown that they have weapons and suggest they will use them, or have individual followers with patterns of violent behavior,” Facebook said in a statement, adding that it would also block QAnon hashtags such as #digitalarmy and #thestorm.

The actions, less than three months before November’s presidential election, underline how QAnon is increasingly causing alarm. Founded four years ago, QAnon was once a fringe phenomenon with believers who alleged, falsely, that the world was run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who were plotting against President Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring.

But in recent months, the movement has become mainstream. Believers of Q, the shadowy central figure of QAnon, have shown up at political rallies. Some have committed violence in the name of the movement. And members of the group are rising in politics. Marjorie Taylor Greene, an avowed QAnon supporter from Georgia, won a Republican primary this month and may be elected to the House in November.

What President Trump Said?

At a White House news conference on Wednesday, President Trump was asked what he thought about QAnon’s theory that he is saving the world from a satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Mr. Trump, who has shared information from QAnon accounts on Twitter and Facebook, said, “I haven’t heard that, but is it supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing?”

In response to the growing activity, tech companies have ramped up their measures to limit QAnon on social media, where the movement is deeply ingrained.

Last month, Twitter announced that it was removing thousands of QAnon accounts and said it was blocking trends and key phrases related to QAnon from appearing in its search and Trending Topics section. Reddit has also banned some of its forums for QAnon content, while the video app TikTok has banned several QAnon-related hashtags.

YouTube also regularly takes down QAnon content, including “tens of thousands of Q-related videos, and terminated hundreds of Q-related channels for violating our community guidelines,” a YouTube spokesman said

 “There needs to be a real change in how these platforms think about conspiracy theories and the real-world harm they cause,” said Cindy Otis, vice president of analysis for Alethea Group, an organization that investigates disinformation. “Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen QAnon move much faster than the social media platforms to gain a following and push their content out.”

Facebook became increasingly concerned by QAnon’s presence in May, said two employees with knowledge of the efforts, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

That was when a video known as “Plandemic,” featuring a discredited scientist spreading a baseless conspiracy theory about the coronavirus, gathered steam on the social network, fueled by QAnon groups. New members also started flocking to the QAnon groups on Facebook.

QAnon activity also spilled out into the real world. In New York, a woman who had cited QAnon theories as a reason she wanted to “take out” the Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden Jr., was arrested on May 1 with dozens of knives in her car. The group has been linked to more than a dozen violent incidents over the last year, including a train hijacking; last month, a QAnon supporter rammed a car into a government residence in Canada.

The spiking activity on its network, combined with real-world incidents, pushed Facebook to discuss policy changes to limit QAnon’s spread, the two employees said. But the conversations stalled because taking down QAnon-related groups, pages and accounts could feed into the movement’s conspiracy theory that social media companies are trying to silence them, the people said.

Marc-André Argentino, a Ph.D. candidate who is studying QAnon, said part of the problem was that QAnon had absorbed members of other conspiracy groups into its pantheon. Even if Facebook removed the groups, they would likely find a foothold within other Facebook networks.

“QAnon is a super conspiracy,” Mr. Argentino said. “Various other conspiracies have various places in the hierarchy under the QAnon narrative, so it draws in people in different ways and gives them one central home. There is no easy answer about what to do about QAnon.”

How effective the social media companies’ takedowns will be at limiting QAnon is unclear. YouTube sometimes surfaces QAnon videos as additional viewing after one QAnon video is watched. Members still post about the conspiracy theory on some parts of Reddit. And on TikTok, accounts promoting the false conspiracy have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers.

On Wednesday, Facebook said it had taken down the QAnon groups as part of a new policy to clamp down on movements that discuss “potential violence.” Under that policy, Facebook said, it will also remove 980 groups such as those related to the far-left antifa movement, as well as others related to militia movements or other protests.

The new policy also bars the groups from buying ads on the platform. QAnon has sold merchandise on Facebook including hats, T-shirts and banners, partly through Facebook ads.

Let see what happen?

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