Facebook bans some QAnon, US-based militias, anarchist groups, accounts but allows posts – CBS San Francisco

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OAKLAND (AP) — Facebook said it will restrict the right-wing QAnon conspiratorial movement and no longer recommend users join groups that support it, though the company isn’t banning it outright.

Facebook said Wednesday it is banning groups and accounts associated with QAnon as well as a variety of US-based militias and anarchist groups that support violence. But the company will continue to allow people to post material that supports these groups, as long as they don’t violate policies against hate speech, abuse and other provocations.

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QAnon groups have flourished on Facebook in recent months, and experts say social media has helped the fringe movement rise. Twitter recently announced a similar crackdown and TikTok completely banned QAnon from its searches, along with related terms such as “WWG1WGA”, short for the group’s motto “Where We Go One, We Go All”.

Google said it removed tens of thousands of QAnon-related videos from its YouTube service and banned hundreds of channels for violating its policies, but it is not banning QAnon either.

The QAnon conspiracy theory centers on the baseless belief that President Donald Trump is waging a covert campaign against enemies in the “Deep State” and a child sex trafficking ring run by pedophiles and Satanic cannibals. For more than two years, followers have pored over tangled clues allegedly posted online by a senior government official known only as “Q”. Some extreme Trump supporters buy into the theory, often likening it to a cult.

The conspiracy theory emerged in a dark corner of the internet, but has recently crept into mainstream politics. Trump has retweeted accounts promoting QAnon and his followers are flocking to his rallies wearing clothes and hats with QAnon symbols and slogans.

Last week, Marjorie Tyler Greene, a House candidate who openly supports QAnon, won her Republican primary in Georgia. She is among a growing list of candidates who have voiced their support for QAnon. Lauren Boebert, another candidate who has voiced her support for QAnon, recently upset a five-term congressman in a Republican primary in Colorado.

Facebook said it would only remove groups and accounts outright if they discussed potential violence, including in veiled language. He said he wasn’t banning QAnon outright because the group didn’t meet the platform’s necessary criteria to designate it a “dangerous organization.” But it is expanding that policy to deal with the move because it has “demonstrated significant risks to public safety”.

But experts say that doesn’t go far enough.

“Facebook’s actions today could ultimately be seen as ‘too little, too late,'” said Ethan Porter, professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University. Will this solve the problem?Not at all.At this point, the most ardent QAnon believers are not only entrenched on the platform, but are likely heading to the halls of Congress.Still, it may cause problems with new recruits.

An FBI bulletin last May warned that conspiracy theory-driven extremists have become a national terrorist threat. The bulletin specifically mentioned QAnon. Earlier last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center warned that the movement was becoming increasingly popular with anti-government extremists.

“Facebook’s limited action is now insufficient given the long-established fact that the group promotes violence, spreads misinformation that causes real-world harm, and knows how to adapt to continue to leverage the platform. -form Facebook,” said Cindy Otis, a former CIA analyst. and vice president of analytics at Alethea Group, a company that helps fight misinformation.

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Facebook will always limit material that it does not remove, initially by no longer recommending it. For example, when people join a QAnon group, Facebook will not recommend similar groups to join. It also won’t suggest QAnon references in searches or, in the near future, allow it in ads.

Otis said Facebook’s decision not to actively push users “down the QAnons’ rabbit hole” is a good thing, but still insufficient.

“Keeping only the most immediately dangerous content off the platform doesn’t do much when you already have QAnon supporters running (and winning) for Congress,” she said.

The social network said it removed more than 790 groups, 100 pages and 1,500 ads related to QAnon on Facebook and blocked more than 300 hashtags on Facebook and Instagram. There are another 1,950 groups and 440 pages that Facebook says it has identified that remain on the platform but face restrictions, as well as 10,000 accounts on Instagram.

For militia organizations and those encouraging rioting, including some that may identify as antifa, the company said it removed more than 980 groups, 520 pages and 160 ads from Facebook.

“These movements and groups are changing rapidly, and our teams will be monitoring them closely and consulting with outside experts so that we can continue to enforce our policies against them,” Facebook said.

Social media, including Facebook, has clearly contributed to the rise of QAnon, even though most Americans have probably never heard of QAnon, at least based on a March report from the Pew Research Center. .

“I don’t want to exaggerate QAnon’s influence among the general public — he’s widely hated and widely in disbelief,” Porter said. “But Facebook helped him attract true believers.”

It is unclear whether the actions companies are taking now will make up for inaction before.

“Obviously QAnon has been dangerous and violent at times,” Porter said. “But even if that alone isn’t enough to ban QAnon — and I’m not sure it should be — Facebook’s top should give serious thought to what kind of public square it has built and what he wants his legacy to be. .”

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