Facebook Purges QAnon Conspiracy Accounts Among Other Disinformation

State-sponsored networks and anti-immigrants accounts were also banned

Facebook cracks down on disinformation. Photo Illustration: Trent Joaquin; Sources: Facebook, Unsplash
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In its latest purge, Facebook removed eight different networks that were disseminating disinformation, including accounts, groups and pages linked to the alleged QAnon conspiracy, a pro-Trump theory that maintains there is a “deep state” working against the president.

The company also removed 19 pages, 15 accounts and a group linked to the anti-immigrant websites Vdare and The Unz Review. This fall, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, an anti-immigrant stalwart within the upper echelons of the administration, had cited Vdare articles in emails in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. 

According to a Facebook report released Tuesday, two of the disinformation networks—based in Iran and Russia—were government-sponsored efforts that targeted international audiences, while six others—based in the United States, Georgia, Myanmar and Mauritania—were non-state actors that targeted U.S. audiences, including the QAnon and anti-immigrant networks.

The Russian state-sponsored effort involved two media organizations in Crimea, NewsFront and SouthFront, the company said. In Iran, Facebook linked the activity directly to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Corporation.

In the U.S., Facebook removed 20 Facebook accounts, six groups and five pages linked to the QAnon conspiracy network. “We found this activity as part of our internal investigations into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of the 2020 election in the U.S.,” Facebook said. One sample post provided by the social network said “World War 3 will be humans versus government. Only then will freedom begin. Let us unite for that purpose,” while another showed White House reporters in clown makeup.

This is the first time Facebook has removed QAnon-related accounts for inauthentic behavior.

This removal is the latest in a series of such actions for the company, which came under intense scrutiny for disinformation that spread around the 2016 presidential election. Facebook said it has 200 people working on tracking “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on the platform and has, as of late, released monthly updates about disinformation networks they have removed.

The report also comes at a time when misinformation around the Covid-19 pandemic has been rampant and Facebook—like other social platforms—has struggled to rid itself of false, misleading and profiteering claims about the virus. 

“All of the networks we took down for CIB in April were created before the Covid-19 pandemic began,” the company said in a statement. “[H]owever, we’ve seen people behind these campaigns opportunistically use coronavirus-related posts among many other topics to build an audience and drive people to their pages or off-platform sites.”

The company said it removed a total of 794 pages, 732 accounts and 200 groups on Facebook, plus 162 Instagram accounts, in April.

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@ScottNover scott.nover@adweek.com Scott Nover is a platforms reporter at Adweek, covering social media companies and their influence.
Publish date: May 5, 2020 https://stage.adweek.com/digital/facebook-purges-qanon-conspiracy-accounts-among-other-disinformation/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT