Facebook on Wednesday cracked down on thousands of accounts across Facebook and Instagram promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory, as well as a range of militia and anarchist groups, amid what the company said was a rise in behavior among those accounts and groups celebrating violence. Hundreds of groups, pages and advertisements were removed from Facebook as part of the effort, the company said.
As many as 10,000 Instagram accounts and hundreds of groups and pages on Facebook tied to QAnon received additional restrictions, Facebook said.
The ban marks Facebook's latest effort to grapple with QAnon, which includes discredited claims that began on the fringes of the internet but have since become increasingly common on mainstream online platforms and espoused by some Republican congressional candidates.
Facebook said in a blog post that the crackdown is part of a broader expansion of its policies against violence. The goal, it said, was to prevent members of the affected movements from being able to organize on Facebook, not to ban content that expresses support for them.
"Today we are expanding our Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy to address organizations and movements that have demonstrated significant risks to public safety but do not meet the rigorous criteria to be designated as a dangerous organization and banned from having any presence on our platform," the company said.
Going forward, Facebook said it will not only remove violent content associated with QAnon, US-based militia movements and violent anarchist groups, but will remove posts that "discuss potential violence." Facebook said it will also stop recommending groups, pages and Instagram accounts associated with the movements in users' News Feeds and search results. And it will not allow advertising by pages linked to the movements.
The enforcement action affects 980 groups, 520 pages and 160 ads on Facebook associated with militia and protest movements, including some that "may identify as Antifa," a movement on the left whose name is short for "anti-fascist," some of whose members have advocated for violence as a means of protest, Facebook said.
While setting new rules can often be easier than enforcing them, Wednesday's announcement follows an earlier ban this month of one of Facebook's largest QAnon groups, which had over 200,000 members. And Twitter last month became the first major social network to ban accounts that shared QAnon content.