It’s only taken a few years of steadily increasing pressure — never mind actual, violent consequences in the real world — but Facebook finally got around to banning one of its largest QAnon conspiracy groups earlier this week.
On Thursday, the “Official Q / QAnon” Facebook group was summarily shut down on the grounds of repeated violations of Facebook's policies, including its rules about online harassment, bullying, hate speech, and the spread of “false information that could lead to harm,” according to Reuters. In other words, not only did the group manage to violate one of the most permissive social media platforms' guidelines, but it managed to run afoul of many of them.
Better late than never— The move from Facebook is one of its most aggressive yet at combating the surge of misinformation and conspiracy theories on its platform. Though, granted, that bar is pretty low. At the time of its ban, Official Q / QAnon had around 200,000 subscribers on the social media site, which is disconcerting enough on its own, until you remember that this fringe movement has actual, sitting members of Congress vocalizing support for its insane allegations of Donald Trump fighting a righteous, holy war against ritual, satanic child abusers within the upper echelons of the Democratic Party. Where was that pizza restaurant again?
Playing catch-up with the rest of social media— Back in late May, Facebook took similar measures to curb online harassment by shutting down a number of similar QAnon-doctrine-peddling groups pushing COVID-19 misinformation, as well as pages in support of the racist, anti-immigration group, VDARE. This, though, is the first action it's taken since CEO Mark Zuckerberg was forced to answer questions from members of Congress during last week’s congressional hearing on Big Tech's antitrust violations.
Last month, Twitter finally took more aggressive steps of its own, deleting and restricting thousands of various QAnon-related accounts while Google removed conspiracy-propagating apps from its Play Store not long beforehand.
Trying to save face— Facebook’s public-facing move to limit QAnon misinformation comes just a week after it faced congressional scrutiny for antitrust violations alongside Apple, Google, and Amazon. While it’s certainly a step in the right direction, unless systemic changes are put in place to regulate the social media free-for-all, the chances are good that QAnon fanatics will simply find other spaces to congregate on the site, not to mention in other corners of the internet.