Facebook is the latest social media company to be cracking down on QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory that alleges that a group of political and Hollywood elite are part of a ring of sex traffickers and pedophiles attempting to take down President Trump, who they think is trying to expose them. Other social media sites like Twitter and TikTok have also expanded their ban of the conspiracy theory in recent weeks, removing or censoring millions of posts or accounts dedicated to the theory and its related hashtags. Believers of the conspiracy theory have also recently co-opted the hashtag #SaveTheChildren on Facebook, which forced the company to put a temporary ban on the hashtag earlier this week over violating its terms of service.
On Tuesday Facebook took down a group called Official Q/QAnon that contained over 200,000 members and was dedicated to the discussion of the theory and its related topics. Facebook says the group repeatedly violated its community guidelines regarding harassment, hate speech and misleading political information. In a statement to Reuters, the company also revealed that it’s monitoring other groups for similar activity and will take action as needed.
Facebook also temporarily blocked the hashtag #SaveTheChildren from being viewed or used on its platform this week after it found that QAnon content had infiltrated it. A QAnon conspiracy theory that went viral last month alleged that the online retailer Wayfair was at the heart of a sex trafficking ring. The conspiracy tied several pieces of furniture to the names of missing children and questioned why those pieces of furniture were being sold for thousands of dollars on the otherwise affordable e-commerce retail site.
The company denied the allegations, but the viral spread of information was enough to effectively spark an online movement dedicated to saving children and ending sex trafficking. Naturally, the movement became a breeding ground for new QAnon believers. QAnon content became intertwined with the #SaveTheChildren hashtag after thousands of posts containing both QAnon related hashtags and the #SaveTheChildren hashtag were being posted to the site.
Many of the posts using the #SaveTheChildren hashtag contained false or misleading information that falsely accused various actors and politicians of pedophilia. QAnon members, which co-opted the hashtag to spread misleading information to the masses, were able to use #SaveTheChildren to spark interest in the conspiracy theory. Posts using the hashtag accuse celebrities like Chrissy Teigen of pedophilia.
Days later, the hashtag has been reinstated on Facebook and users are able to both search it in the search bar and view content using the hashtag by clicking on it within a post. In the meantime, though, QAnon believers and anti-human trafficking advocates have only doubled down in their suspicions that Facebook has ties to the “deep state,” claiming that its censorship of the hashtag acts as proof that the platform has no interest in saving victims of human trafficking.
Both the anti human trafficking movements and QAnon conspiracy theories have, in recent weeks, served to deepen the political narrative of a need for tighter immigration policies and a distrust for Hollywood and the Democratic Party. QAnon was flagged by the FBI in 2019 as a domestic terrorist threat after the group was linked to several crimes, including two murders.