“Starting today, we will remove Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts for representing QAnon. We’re starting to enforce this updated policy today and are removing content accordingly, but this work will take time and will continue in the coming days and weeks,” Facebook said in a Tuesday news release. “Our Dangerous Organizations Operations team will continue to enforce this policy and proactively detect content for removal instead of relying on user reports.”
The change was an update to an effort begun in August "to disrupt the ability of QAnon and Militarized Social Movements to operate and organize on our platform," the update notes.
According to Facebook, the social media site took down more than 1,500 QAnon groups and pages in the first month alone for discussing potential violence, and another 6,500 pages and groups tied to more than 300 Militarized Social Movements, which it does not expand upon but later notes includes groups associated with the left-wing anti-fascist ideology Antifa.
In July, Twitter began a similar crackdown on QAnon content.
QAnon is a conspiracy theory that grew out of the dark corners of internet chat forums like 8chan, and alleges that US President Donald Trump is doing battle with a cabal of Satan-worshiping, deep-state elites that includes politicians such as Hillary Clinton and investor George Soros, as well as Hollywood stars, who together run a massive child sex-trafficking ring and cannibalistic cult. Other ideas the group reportedly spreads are that the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax or that industrial bleach is an effective treatment for the virus.
NBC has noted that in response to these moves by the social media giants, QAnon adherents have begun camouflaging their messaging by dropping the QAnon label and adopting a "save the children" message in reference to the alleged sex trafficking.
“Q is getting more mainstream, more acceptable, and more vanilla," conspiracy researcher Mike Rothschild told NBC last month. "Rebranding as '#Savethechildren,' 'wake up,' or 'fight the deep state' are all messages that a lot of people can get behind without the weird numerology and belief that JFK Jr. is coming back to life."
In response to the ban, Rothschild wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that the ban wouldn't end QAnon, but it might slow down its spread.
My hope, ultimately, is that a Facebook ban flattens Q's growth and spread into other conspiracy spheres. That would be a great start.— Mike Rothschild (@rothschildmd) October 6, 2020
"I'm already seeing people assuming that QAnon is dead without Facebook. Talk to actual Q believers. Read what they write. Watch their videos. These people think they're fighting the minions of Satan to save the world. A ban will push some of them away, but not all," he wrote. "My hope, ultimately, is that a Facebook ban flattens Q's growth and spread into other conspiracy spheres. That would be a great start."