OAKLAND (CBS SF/AP) — Facebook says it has removed several groups, accounts and pages linked to QAnon, taking action for the first time against the far-right U.S. conspiracy theory circulated among supporters of President Donald Trump.
The social-media giant made the announcement Tuesday as part of its monthly briefing on “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on its platforms. Facebook uses the term to describe fake accounts run with the intent of disrupting politics elections and society.
“We removed 5 Pages, 20 Facebook accounts, and 6 Groups that originated in the US and focused domestically,” the social media giant said in a statement. “Our investigation linked this activity to individuals associated with the QAnon network known to spread fringe conspiracy theories. We found this activity as part of our internal investigations into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of the 2020 election in the US.”
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Facebook said it discovered the QAnon sites while during “proactive investigations into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the US ahead of the 2020 election.”
“They frequently posted about news and topics including the upcoming presidential election and candidates, the current US administration, anti-Semitic and anti-Asian conspiracies, and COVID-19. While it did not appear to be the focus of this campaign, some of the individuals behind this effort attempted to monetize their clickbait content by selling t-shirts and other merchandise,” the statement said. “Although the people behind this operation attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with QAnon, a network known to spread fringe conspiracy theories.”
In addition to the QAnon accounts, Facebook also removed 19 Pages, 15 Facebook accounts, and 1 Group linked to VDARE, a U.S. website known for posting anti-immigration content.
The social media company said posts on those sites targeted Asian-Americans with hate speech.
“They frequently posted about US news and topics including the US President, ideologies recognized as far-right, and anti-immigration content,” Facebook said in its report. “Most recently, this network shared COVID-19-related conspiracies and hate speech about Asian Americans.”
Accounts in Russia, Iran, Mauritania, Myanmar and the country of Georgia were also removed.
QAnon is a right-wing conspiracy theory centered on the baseless belief that Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state” and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals. For more than two years, followers have pored over a tangled set of clues purportedly posted online by a high-ranking government official known only as “Q.”
The conspiracy theory first emerged in a dark corner of the internet but has been creeping into the mainstream political arena. Trump has retweeted QAnon-promoting accounts and its followers flock to the president’s rallies wearing clothes and hats with QAnon symbols and slogans.
“We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing effort,” the company said in its April report on coordinated activity. “That means building better technology, hiring more people and working more closely with law enforcement, security experts and other companies.”
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.