A number of prominent pro-QAnon accounts on Instagram, which have been spreading right-wing conspiracy theories at an accelerating rate, were suspended indefinitely Tuesday in accordance with Facebook’s new policies against groups with ties to violence.
One of latest highest-profile casualties of the platform’s misinformation cull was user @little.miss.patriot, who gained nearly 300,000 followers in the space of a few months by uploading pastel-colored infographics containing false claims about President Trump and Democrats.
‘I have no idea how long my page is disabled for, it will not let me log in, I have no information,’ the account holder, whose real name is not known, wrote on her back-up account, little.miss.patriot.2.
Facebook has been under immense pressure to clamp down on hate speech and dangerous conspiracy theories, both of which are found in abundance on both Facebook and Instagram.
The move comes just two weeks after tech-giant removed 900 pages and groups and 1,500 ads tied to the pro-Trump conspiracy group, in addition to restricting the reach of more than 10,000 QAnon Instagram pages.
A number of prominent pro-QAnon accounts on Instagram, who have been spreading right-wing conspiracy theories at an accelerating rate, were suspended indefinitely Tuesday
One of the highest-profile casualties of the platform’s misinformation cull was user @little.miss.patriot, who nearly 300,000 followers in the space of a few months by uploading pastel-colored infographics containing false claims about President Trump and Democrats
Another popular QAnon account, @qthewakeup, similarly announced Tuesday that they were no longer able to access their main page, writing on another account, ‘Can’t stop, won’t stop.’
A previous account belonging to @greatawakening3, who claimed to boast 117,000 followers, was deactivated too, seemingly permanently.
‘Here we go again,’ the anonymous account user said in a post.
Several smaller conspiracy theory pages, while still active, have also had their posts flagged as ‘false information’ by Instagram’s fact checkers.
When such an instance occurs, the app blocks out the user’s post with a warning message and explainer debunking the false claim. A user can still, however, view the post if they should wish.
Right-wing journalist Liz Crokin also posted in an Instagram story that her account was ‘under attack’, though she offered no further information to substantiate her claim.
Facebook confirmed to Buzzfeed Wednesday that the accounts, and numerous others, had been taken down in-line with the company’s new policy against accounts ‘tied to offline anarchist groups that support violent acts amidst protests, US-based militia organizations and QAnon.’
QAnon, which first emerged on 4chan in 2017, is the far-right conspiracy theory that a cabal of Satan-worshiping child-sex traffickers are plotting against President Trump, who is trying to expose them.
No part of the theory is based on fact, though a 4chan user by the name of ‘Q’ claimed to have access to information involving the Trump administration and its opponents in the US.
The user accused a number of liberal Hollywood actors, Democratic politicians, and other high-ranking officials of being a part of the cabal.
Another popular QAnon account, @qthewakeup, similarly announced Tuesday that they were no longer able to access their main page, writing on another account, ‘Can’t stop, won’t stop’
A previous account belonging to @greatawakening3, who claimed to boast 117,000 followers, was deactivated too, seemingly permanently
Several smaller conspiracy theory pages, while still active, have also had their posts flagged as ‘false information’ by Instagram’s fact checkers
WHAT IS QANON?
Origins: Q Anon started on fringe website 4chan, where a poster calling themselves Q left messages claiming to be a senior federal official and purporting to reveal a ‘deep state’ cabal intent on bringing down Donald Trump. Q grew out of the discredited Pizzagate conspiracy that top Democrats were involved in pedophilia and cannibalism from the basement of a Washington D.C. restaurant, but quickly picked up steam with ‘Q’ leaving ‘clues’ and claims that Trump was going to bring down the deep state. Whenever the conspiracies turn out to not be true, followers rationalize that the inaccuracies are part of Q’s larger plan.
Who is Q?: There may now be multiple people posing as Q on the anonymous 4chan boards
A QAnon believer blocked the bridge near Hoover Dam with a homemade armored tank in the name of the movement, and later pleaded guilty to terrorism
Hoover Dam: In June 2019, 32-year-old Matthew Wright, a QAnon supporter, blocked the bridge near Hoover Dam in Arizona with a homemade armored vehicle in a 90-minute stand-off. He pleaded guilty to terrorism charges and has written two letters to Donald Trump from jail, which include the sign-off, which has become the QAnon motto: “For where we go one, we go all.”
Michael Flynn: Trump’s former national security adviser became a martyr figure for QAnon believers after he took a plea deal from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, admitting he lied about his Russia contacts. QAnon conspiracy have spun Flynn pleading guilty into him being a persecuted victim of the deep state – and some even claim he is ‘Q.’
Many believers put three star emojis next to their Twitter handles. But the retired three-star general has denounced any connections to the group and pulled out of participating in an event after finding out it was hosted by a QAnon believer.
QAnon believers make former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn out to be a martyr after taking a plea deal with Robert Mueller
QAnon Political Candidates: Jo Rae Perkins, 64, won the Republican primary in Oregon in May to run for a Senate seat against incumbent Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley. “I stand with Q and the team,” she said when asked about her interest in the group. She insisted she goes to QAnon message boards as a “source of information” and claims media focuses too much on the group. Perkins won 49 per cent of the vote against three other Republicans.
Marjorie Taylor Greene came in first place in the Republican primary in a deep-red Georgia district, and will enter an August runoff. She has admitted to believing in several QAnon conspiracy theories.
Despite the latest round of account deactivations by Facebook, thousands more accounts that promote QAnon theories remain active on the platform, with none of their posts censored.
Additionally, a number of lifestyle bloggers with substantial followings who have posted similar conspiracy theory content have also face no apparent consequences for sharing misinformation thus far.
In announcing their policy shift in mid-August, Facebook said it began the crackdown by removing over 790 groups, 100 Pages and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon from Facebook, blocked over 300 hashtags across Facebook and Instagram, and additionally imposed restrictions on over 1,950 Groups and 440 Pages on Facebook and over 10,000 accounts on Instagram,’ as of August 19.
Facebook has since sought to deliberately push down in its rankings QAnon, militia and anarchist protest groups on users’ News Feeds and in Facebook and Instagram’s search engines.
The groups and accounts will no longer be featured in the ‘recommendations’ sidebar on similar pages.
The new ban will also prohibit fundraising based on hashtags related to these movements on Facebook and Instagram.
Several Republican candidates for Congress have openly expressed support for QAnon, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, who recently declared that QAnon was ‘a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this supposed global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.’
On August 11 she triumphed in her House primary runoff election in Georgia, all but ensuring that she will represent a deep-red district in Congress.
Right-wing journalist Liz Crokin also posted in an Instagram story that her account was ‘under attack’, though she offered no further information to substantiate her claim
Despite the latest round of account deactivations by Facebook, thousands more accounts that promote QAnon theories remain active on the platform, with none of their posts censored
Over the last month, since supporters of the group were largely banned from Twitter, QAnon believers began using the hashtag ‘#SaveTheChildren,’ as a means to evade bans and recruit otherwise apolitical followers.
A Facebook spokesperson said the enforcement actions will continue as the company works to evolve its strategy.
‘This doesn’t mean we’ve captured all of the ones we want to restrict yet,’ the spokesperson said.
‘We 100 percent know that they’re going to change their terminology. We don’t think we’re flipping a switch and this won’t be a discussion in a week.’
On August 10 the results an internal investigation by Facebook showed that QAnon sites and groups had proliferated on the platform.
The top 10 groups identified in the investigation collectively contain more than one million members, with totals from more top groups and pages pushing the number of members and followers past three million.
It is not clear how much overlap there is among the groups.
A small team working this summer across several of Facebook’s departments found 185 advertisements that the company had accepted ‘praising, supporting, or representing’ QAnon, according to an internal post shared among more than 400 employees.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company has routinely enforced its rules on QAnon groups.
QAnon, which first emerged on 4chan in 2017, is the far-right conspiracy theory that a cabal of Satan-worshiping child-sex trafficking ring is plotting against President Trump, who is trying to expose them
None of the theory is based on fact, though a 4chan user by the name of ‘Q’ claimed to have access to information involving the Trump administration and its opponents in the US
Last month, Facebook removed a QAnon group with nearly 200,000 members ‘for repeatedly posting content that violated our policies.’
‘Enforcing against QAnon on Facebook is not new: we consistently take action against accounts, Groups, and Pages tied to QAnon that break our rules,’ the spokesperson said.
‘Just last week, we removed a large Group with QAnon affiliations for violating our content policies, and removed a network of accounts for violating our policies against coordinated inauthentic behavior.
‘We have teams assessing our policies against QAnon and are currently exploring additional actions we can take.’
Similarly, Twitter announced in July that it had banned 7,000 QAnon accounts for breaking its rules around platform manipulation, misinformation and harassment.
Twitter also said it would no longer recommend QAnon accounts and content, would stop such content from appearing in trends and search, and would block QAnon’s internet links.
On Monday, the social media giant took down a a false claim about coronavirus death statistics that was made by a supporter of QAnon – a tweet the president himself had retweeted earlier in the day.
The tweet, from Mel Q, falsely claimed that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had ‘quietly’ updated its numbers ‘to admit that only 6%’ of people listed as coronavirus deaths ‘actually died from Covid,’ since ‘the other 94% had 2-3 other serious illnesses.’
The post has since been deleted and replaced with a message that reads: ‘This Tweet is no longer available because it violated the Twitter Rules.’