Facebook recently said it was changing its policy on social media posts and Facebook groups linked to the conspiracy theory movement QAnon. The company has begun removing pages, groups and Instagram accounts with ties to QAnon.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation lists the movement as a possible source of domestic terrorism. The driving force behind QAnon has yet to be identified by name. That person leaves posts on the internet and is nicknamed Q. He or she claims to have close ties to the administration of President Donald Trump.
QAnon’s main claim is that Trump is secretly leading a campaign against a large group of child sex traffickers. The group is said to include leading members of the Democratic Party and the movie industry.
This is not the first time that Facebook has taken steps against QAnon. In August, it banned a third of QAnon groups for supporting violence. The company permitted most of the groups to continue using Facebook, although their posts appeared less often in news feeds.
Instead of depending on user reports, Facebook will now treat QAnon like a militarized group - even if the posts do not have violent material. Facebook is seeking out and removing QAnon groups and pages, the company said in a blog post.
Since August, some QAnon groups have added members. Others used special language to avoid being found. For example, some members use the word “cue” instead of the letter Q.
Some QAnon supporters appear to have joined other groups, such as those concerned with child safety. And others have joined groups critical of restrictions on gatherings during the coronavirus health crisis. The Reuters news agency says that information comes from researchers at Facebook and elsewhere.
“While we’ve removed QAnon content that celebrates and supports violence,” Facebook wrote, “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.”
“QAnon messaging changes very quickly,” Facebook said.
Recent QAnon posts have spread false information about voting and about COVID-19, researchers said. Other posts claimed that President Trump faked getting COVID-19 in order to plot secret arrests.
Critics said Facebook’s move was much-needed, but possibly a little late.
The conspiracy theory movement has already moved into U.S. politics. This year several congressional candidates supported by the Republican Party are QAnon-friendly.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt is head of the Anti-Defamation League and one of the founders of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign. The campaign organized a Facebook boycott by advertisers.
“Now that they have announced that they will treat the QAnon ideology like the very real threat that it is, we hope that they will follow up with some ... evidence showing how the ban is being enforced and whether it is fully effective,” Greenblatt said.
I'm John Russell.
John Russell adapted this story for VOA Learning English. His story was based on reports by Reuters and the Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
post – n. an image or piece of writing published online
conspiracy – n. a secret plan to do something harmful or unlawful
account – n. an arrangement in which a person uses the Internet, e-mail, or social media services of a particular company
domestic – adj. related to a home or home country; not foreign
nickname – v. a name given to a person or thing instead of the real name
elsewhere – n. at or in some other place
fake – v. to make (something) seem real or true in an effort to trick someone
content – n. the ideas, facts, or images that are in a book, story, speech or movie