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Facebook bans extremist conspiracy group QAnon

After classifying the QAnon conspiracy theory movement as “dangerous”, Facebook has begun removing pages that hold themselves out as its representatives. QAnon is a loose group that peddles misinformation about topics ranging from alien landings to corona virus. Its followers think President Donald Trump is fighting a cabal of high-profile child molesters. Social media recommendation algorithms have been driving people who show an interest in such conspiracy theories towards more material. QAnon has been growing in size and visibility in 2020.

Advancing towards a more neutral social media platform.

Facebook Inc. is expanding its approach to the QAnon conspiracy movement, saying it will remove all Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts linked to QAnon’s followers in an effort to limit their reach and growth online.

  • Facebook had previously banned QAnon pages, groups and accounts if they called for or celebrated violence. But that meant Groups and Pages that peddle the QAnon conspiracies, but were not explicitly violent, remained on the service, Associating with QAnon is now against the company’s rules, Facebook said on Oct 6 in a blog post. Facebook said its Dangerous Organizations Operations team will proactively seek out content tied to QAnon, instead of just relying on user reports. “This work will take time and will continue in the coming days and weeks,” the company said.
  • Individual accounts and posts related to QAnon are still allowed on the social network, but the company imposed the ban on Groups and Pages in an effort to keep followers of the conspiracy movement from congregating. Instagram accounts linked to QAnon are also banned. The photo-sharing app doesn’t require people to use their real identities.
  • The step escalates an August policy that banned a third of QAnon groups for promoting violence while allowing most to stay, albeit with content appearing less often in news feeds. Since the August restrictions, some QAnon groups have added members, and others used coded language to evade detection, for example referring to “cue” instead of Q. Meanwhile, adherents have worked to integrate themselves in other groups, such as those concerned with child safety and those critical of restrictions on gatherings due to the coronavirus, according to researchers at Facebook and elsewhere.
  • When news of U.S. President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis broke, QAnon followers reacted with delight – not because the president, who they idolize, was sick, but because the news must mean that “the storm,” the great revelation where Trump would arrest his enemies for their crimes, was coming. Most of those who believe in the convoluted QAnon conspiracy theory holds that the pandemic is fake, and so the move could only indicate that the president was going undercover and that the final revelation was coming.

“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,QAnon messaging changes very quickly and we see networks of supporters build an audience with one message and then quickly pivot to another.”

-Facebook officials

QAnon — synonym for insurgency?

  • Classed as a potential source of domestic terrorism by the FBI, QAnon is driven by an anonymous internet poster nicknamed “Q” who claims to be a Trump administration insider. There has been no surge in arrests, and the fictitious satanic rituals that the group cites long-standing echo legends used to the core, the nonsensical claim is that Trump is secretly leading a crackdown against an enormous pedophile ring that includes prominent Democrats anger people for political reasons, often against minorities.
  • QAnon is a right-wing conspiracy theory that revolves around the ridiculous central claim that child-sex-trafficking rings and plotting a left-wing coup. Only Donald Trump heroically stands in the Q is nonsense, of course. But it is addictively the deep state – an alleged cabal led by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros and abetted by immoral celebrities – is running a global way. Trump has praised the group as patriotic, and more than a dozen Republican congressional candidates have promoted it participatory.
  • Game dynamics help explain why QAnon is such a seductive conspiracy. First off, QAnon poses a mystery that feels so big it can only be solved by crowdsourcing. It’s thrilling to be involved with other people in something bigger than yourself. Plus, it turns one’s armchair-warrior Googling into a heroic quest for truth. There’s also the thrill of creativity. Q’s followers behave like religious devotees who pore over their faith’s central texts, crafting interpretations that become part of the official creed.
  • Whenever Q posts about the “[C] BEFORE [D]. [C]oats BEFORE [D]. The month of AUGUST is traditionally very HOT. You have more than you know.” Since the clues are oblique, it’s up to the followers of QAnon to interpret them. They instantly begin Googling the phrases, then energetically share their exegeses online about What It All Means. (August is when Trump will finally imprison Clinton!) To belong to the QAnon pack is to be part of a massive crowdsourcing project that sees itself cracking a mystery. Conspiracy (he or she or them) leaves clues “Q drops” on imageboards like 8kun that are cryptic and open-ended.
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Prevelance of QAnon

In many ways, QAnon is the culmination of Trump’s America: paranoid, deeply critical of journalists and experts, obsessive in its defense of the president.

  • QAnon traces its lineage back to a single, disproven conspiracy: that, in 2016, a pedophile ring tied to the Democratic Party had been exposed. John Podesta, Anthony Weiner, and Hillary Clinton were all involved, satanism was at play, and Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., was the headquarters for the whole operation. Trump was about to launch mass arrests, fringe players promised, that would expose the entire conspiracy.
  • Back then, it was not the sprawling, well-developed conspiracy theory is today. It was a fringe message board movement known as “The Storm,” based on the cryptic 4Chan posts of a supposed anonymous government insider, known as “Q Clearance Patriot.” QAnon was ignored. But QAnon didn’t go away. In June 2018, an armed QAnon believer was arrested after stopping traffic on a bridge near the Hoover Dam. A month later, QAnon supporters started showing up at rallies for the president wearing Q-branded hats and T-shirts. Unlike fringe internet movements that stay purely online, QAnon was seeping into the offline world.

How to save oneself from these social-media shenanigans?

The more you deny Hillary Clinton is not a blood-sucking alien, the stronger is their belief in it.

  • The social media bans will help counter the movement to some extent. From the beginning, adherents of QAnon used highly organized strategies to grow their audience and capitalize on the infrastructure of social media sites to alter the political conversation. One common technique to amass supporters was called the “follow-back,” These requests helped some accounts gain tens of thousands of followers. Another strategy – which, like requesting follow-backs, was permitted • There is the possibility that QAnon’s main appeal in which a Twitter account would put out a call for followers and promise to return the favor by Twitter – was the “hashtag rally” in which a group of online accounts would all tweet the same hashtag at the same time.
  • There is a possibility that QAnon’s mail appeal Is in the sheer complexity of the conspiracy itself, rather than the details. QAnon is often described often as a rabbit hole, offering users an initially simple story that gradually becomes more complicated. Some evidence suggests that conspiracy theories need to offer “uniqueness” to their adherents – that is, the promise of exclusive knowledge. The more complex and detailed the theory, the more likely that uniqueness becomes, and thus the greater the appeal. But just how big a factor is that?
  • Which leads to the central question: What exactly are the doctrines of QAnon that are most appealing and persuasive to its adherents? The temptation is to focus on the facts, many of which are absurd if not reprehensible. And merely disproving QAnon’s claims may not prove very useful, especially if its followers are motivated by a desire to belong to a special and unusual movement. Of the goal is to limit the influence of QAnon, or to steer it in a healthier direction, the question of what its followers really believe needs a better answer.
  • Meanwhile, Q’s messianic prophecies have warned its followers of the evil influences of satanic temples and the supposed threat of anti-Christian symbology everywhere. There are even Zoom-based church services for Q followers. The exact tenets of the “Evangelicals” are as murky as Q’s oblique 4chan posts, however. Its efforts to hijack faith have led pastors to warn their followers away from Q. As Q wrote in June: “We are living in Biblical times. Children of light vs children of darkness. United against the Invisible Enemy of all humanity.” But even as its doctrine borrows heavily from Christianity, QAnon also recommends Yoga to its followers. In April of this year, Q dropped a link to a YouTube video with a command to “Clear your mind. Heal.”
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