After weeks of intensified pressure on Facebook, the social media giant said it’s finally taking action against QAnon, Antifa and other militia groups on its platform.
The company said it’s removing nearly 900 QAnon and 1500 militia organisations (including Antifa) Facebook groups, pages and Instagram accounts, and placed restrictions on 10,000 more.
Facebook changes its prohibited violent content and groups policy
In a blog post, Facebook announced these moves as part of an overhaul of its Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy. Prior to this, the company only removed content or groups that directly called or advocate for violence.
The company has admitted this allowed violent groups, who present significant risks to public safety, to skirt these rules to remain on the platform.
“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 behavior,” the statement said.
Facebook’s new policy attempts to stymie these groups by restricting rather than removing content from them, and removing content with veiled violent language and symbols.
“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.
The blog post lists a number of actions that the company will take including limiting recommendations from these groups, reducing their rankings in the news feed and search, and removing their ability to run ads and fundraise on the platform. They also say they’re reviewing Instagram’s related hashtags, too.
These decisions stop far short of banning these communities outright. Facebook explicitly said that it’s okay to post support for them, which means that all the groups will continue to exist on its platforms.
How big are QAnon and these other groups on Facebook?
QAnon has been a big problem for Facebook. At it’s core, it’s a community built around a conspiracy theory about Donald Trump trying to uncover a secret group of elites who are running a Satanic child sex abuse cult.
The source of all information is an anonymous poster on internet imageboards who claims to be a top-ranked security official trying to get the word out.
Reporting suggests the anonymous account is run by 3 people who are using it to make money — but there are millions of people who are involved in these online communities. Leaked internal Facebook data revealed that QAnon Facebook groups had more than 3 million members. The platform has been a tool for spreading the belief to millions.
And it matters because they’re dangerous. The FBI declared believers of QAnon and other conspiracy theories a domestic terrorism threat. Members of these communities have violent too, like a believer accused of killing a NY mob boss or a woman who was arrested with dozens of illegal knives after livestreaming herself threatening to kill Joe Biden.
Militia groups have also been a problem. While they’re not new, emerging right wing groups like the Boogaloo movement has utilised Facebook to spread its pro-violence message, despite Facebook trying to crack down on them in the past. The group has also been associated with murder.
Antifa has also used Facebook to spread its message, although it’s unclear why it — as a mostly non-violent group — has been lumped in the with the same announcement.
But Facebook’s well documented fear of being perceived as censoring right-wing politics may show why the left-wing group was included.