Facebook said it will ban groups that openly support QAnon, a conspiracy theory that paints President Donald Trump against a supposed child-trafficking ring run by celebrities and “deep state” government officials.
Less than two months ago, Facebook said it would only remove QAnon groups if they promote violence. That is no longer the case.
The company said Tuesday that it will remove Facebook pages, groups and Instagram accounts for “representing QAnon” — even if they don’t promote violence. The social network said it will consider a variety of factors to decide if a group meets its criteria for a ban, including its name, the biography or “about” section of the page, and discussions within the page, group or Instagram account.
Administrators of banned groups will have their personal accounts disabled as well.
The company said it started to enforce the policy Tuesday but cautioned that it “will take time and will continue in the coming days and weeks.”
The QAnon phenomenon has sprawled across a patchwork of secret Facebook groups, Twitter accounts and YouTube videos in recent years. QAnon has been linked to real-world violence such as criminal reports of kidnapping and claims that the coronavirus is overblown.
But the conspiracy theory has also seeped into mainstream politics. Several politicians running for Congress this year are QAnon-friendly.
“We’ve seen several issues that led to today’s update,” Facebook said in a blog post. “While we’ve removed QAnon content that celebrates and supports violence, we’ve seen other QAnon content tied to different forms of real world harm, including recent claims that the west coast wildfires were started by certain groups, which diverted attention of local officials from fighting the fires and protecting the public.”
Twitter did not immediately respond to a message for comment on Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, Citigroup Inc. reportedly fired a manager in its technology department after an investigation found that he operated a prominent website dedicated to QAnon. According to Bloomberg, Jason Gelinas had been placed on paid leave after he was identified on Sept. 10 by a fact-checking site as the operator of the website QMap.pub and its associated mobile apps.
In a statement, Citi confirmed that Gelinas is no longer with the company and added that employees are required to abide by its code of conduct. This includes disclosing and obtaining permission for outside business activity.