OAKLAND, Calif. — Facebook said on Wednesday that it had removed 790 QAnon groups from its site and was restricting another 1,950 groups, 440 pages and more than 10,000 Instagram accounts related to the right-wing conspiracy theory, in the social network’s most sweeping action against the fast-growing movement.
Facebook’s takedown followed record growth of QAnon groups on the site, much of it since the coronavirus pandemic began in March. Activity on some of the largest QAnon groups on the social network, including likes, comments and shares of posts, rose 200 to 300 percent in the last six months, according to data gathered by The New York Times.
“We have seen growing movements that, while not directly organizing 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,” Facebook said in a statement.
QAnon was once a fringe phenomenon with believers who alleged, falsely, that the world was run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who were plotting against President Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring. But ahead of the November election, the movement has become increasingly mainstream. Marjorie Taylor Greene, an avowed QAnon supporter from Georgia, recently won a Republican primary and may be elected to the House in November.
Facebook has been tracking QAnon’s growth since early May, according to two employees involved in the effort. But internal discussions on what to do about the groups stalled because Facebook was concerned that taking them down would feed into QAnon’s baseless conspiracy theory that social media companies were trying to silence them, the people said.
Facebook’s actions on Wednesday were not limited to QAnon. The company also said it would remove 980 groups such as those related to the far-left antifa movement and block QAnon hashtags such as #digitalarmy and #thestorm.
On July 21, Twitter announced that it was removing thousands of QAnon accounts. The company also said it was blocking trends and key phrases related to QAnon from appearing in its search and Trending Topics section.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.