- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Facebook pages dedicated to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory have recently swelled in size amid uncertainties about their future on the social network, a report said Tuesday.

Days after Facebook removed a QAnon group with nearly 200,000 members, The Guardian reported that similarly popular communities continue to thrive on the platform.

Another report this week said that Facebook recently found that thousands of QAnon groups and pages on the platform collectively boast millions of members.

Believers of QAnon, put broadly, purport that President Trump is the target of a “deep state” coup supposedly plotted in part by Democrats involved in satanism and child abuse.

The FBI warned last year that it believed conspiracy theories, including specifically QAnon, could motivate domestic extremists to carry out violent acts.

In late June, The Guardian reported that an investigation into QAnon activity on Facebook-owned platforms found “more than 100 Facebook pages, profiles, groups and Instagram accounts with at least 1,000 followers or members each,” the British newspaper recalled Tuesday. The total number of accounts that belong or follow those groups and pages has since grown by 34% to more than 4 million, with more than one of those groups now boasting more than 200,000 members, the publication reported this week.

The Guardian reported that it also found another 73 groups or pages dedicated to QAnon with at least 1,000 followers or members each, including many created since May 2020.

Facebook, on its part, recently launched its own probe of QAnon’s presence on its platform and is considering whether to take action in response, NBC News reported Monday.

That internal investigation, according to NBC, so far determined that thousands of QAnon groups exist on Facebook and collectively boast more than 3 million members and followers.

Citing the investigation and two current Facebook employees of the company, NBC reported the probe’s final results will likely play a part in deciding if any platform-wide action is warranted against QAnon.

Facebook took down a QAnon group with nearly 200,000 members last week for repeatedly violating the platform’s policies, including its rules against harassment and hate speech.

More recently, a Facebook spokesperson told NBC News and The Guardian this week that the company is considering whether to put new rules into place to address QAnon.

“We have teams assessing our policies against QAnon and are currently exploring additional actions we can take,” said a Facebook spokesperson, both outlets reported.

Facebook, according to NBC, is considering treating QAnon content similar to anti-vaccination content, which would make it less visible to users by excluding related groups and pages from search results and recommendations.

If it does, it would not be the first platform to act as such. Competing social networking company Twitter announced last month it was banning thousands of QAnon accounts and would no longer recommend related content to users.

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