Facebook tightens screws on QAnon and US militia groups

Social network says it has booted 790 QAnon groups and 980 groups related to US militias, which Facebook said includes some antifa.

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Facebook said on Wednesday it tightened restrictions and booted off its service a number of groups related to the QAnon conspiracy theory, United States militia groups, and offline anarchist groups.

"We already remove content calling for or advocating violence and we ban organisations and individuals that proclaim a violent mission," Facebook said in a blog post.

"However, we have seen growing movements that, while not directly organising violence, have celebrated violent acts, shown that they have weapons and suggest they will use them, or have individual followers with patterns of violent behaviour."

Facebook said it has removed in excess of 790 groups, 100 pages, and 1,500 ads relating to QAnon, and imposed restrictions on over 1,950 groups, 440 pages, and over 10,000 Instagram accounts.

The company added it has removed 980 groups, 520 pages, and 160 from Facebook related to "militia organisations and those encouraging riots, including some who may identify as antifa".

The types of restrictions imposed are: Limiting pages, groups, and Instagram accounts from being recommended to other users; lowering rankings of content from restricted groups in the Facebook news feed; removing groups, pages, and accounts from being seen in typeahead search suggestions, and lowering the rankings in search results; preventing pages from running ads or selling products, with Facebook warning it will extend this to "prohibit anyone from running ads praising, supporting or representing these movements"; and preventing nonprofit and personal fundraising if they support the restricted groups.

"While we will allow people to post content that supports these movements and groups, so long as they do not otherwise violate our content policies, we will restrict their ability to organise on our platform," the company said.

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Facebook said it has also pulled the related hashtag feature on Instagram while it works on "stronger protections".

In a White House briefing on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump was asked his thoughts on QAnon.

"I've heard these are people that love our country," he said.

The President was then asked about the conspiracy theory behind the movement believing the world is run by a "satanic cult of paedophiles and cannibals".

"Well, I haven't heard that. But is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? I mean, if I can help save the world from problems, I'm willing to do it," Trump said.

"I'm willing to put myself out there. And we are actually. We're saving the world from a radical left philosophy that will destroy this country, and when this country is gone, the rest of the world would follow."

At the start of the month, Facebook pulled down a video posted by Trump's Facebook page, stating it had violated its COVID-19 misinformation policies.

The video showed footage from a Fox News interview, where Trump was pushing for the reopening of schools. During the interview, he said children are "virtually immune" to coronavirus.

"If you look at children, children are almost -- and I would almost say definitely -- but almost immune from this disease. So few -- they've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they've got much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," he said.

"They just don't have a problem."

Earlier this week, a suit was filed in San Francisco claiming censorship because Facebook was displaying fact-check messages on anti-vaccination posts.

Facebook had previously taken a swing at banning some QAnon content in May, with Twitter following suit last month.

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