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Facebook removes major QAnon group along with hundreds of accounts posing as black Trump supporters

Fringe conspiracy theory movement is considered an extremist threat by the FBI

Andrew Naughtie
Friday 07 August 2020 11:36 BST
Facebook to label content that violates policies as America's biggest companies suspend ads over platforms hate and division

Facebook has staged a major cull of fake accounts, taking down hundreds masquerading as black supporters of Donald Trump and supporters of the conspiracy theory movement QAnon – as well as one of the platform’s largest QAnon groups.

It also removed hundreds more associated with the far-right, pro-Trump Epoch Media Group, which has spread misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. It has been sanctioned by Facebook before for posting false content, including via false profiles.

According to NBC News, many of the other fake accounts were reportedly associated with a troll farm based in Romania. Facebook has a policy against “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour”, in part a response to the condemnation it has faced since the spread of disinformation on its platform in the 2016 election.

Facebook is also under increasing pressure to crack down on QAnon, a bizarre and incendiary conspiracy theory proto-cult that believes Donald Trump is secretly doing battle with an international cabal of satanic paedophiles.

The FBI has identified QAnon as an extremist movement likely to incite violence, and the size of its growing online following has increasingly compelled social media companies to take action.

The deleted group, Official Q / QAnon, was the second-largest Facebook group associated with the QAnon movement, with close to 200,000 likes at its peak and millions of engagements with its posts. Many other QAnon groups remain active on the platform, with more than a few counting tens of thousands of members.

Many platforms including Twitter have lately acknowledged that their policies on extremist content needed toughening and have taken action accordingly, banning accounts and deleting or flagging posts that breach their rules.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, however, has repeatedly emphasised that he does not want his platform or any other to be an “arbiter of truth”. The upshot is that Facebook has begun deleting some profiles and groups that it deems specifically likely to incite harm or put someone in danger.

It has so far made several swoops on particular users and groups, including a recent action targeting groups associated with the idea of the “boogaloo” – a code used by various groups and movements for a coming civil conflict.

Asked for comment on the deletion of Official Q, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We’ve removed this group for repeatedly posting content that violated our policies.”

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