Facebook’s so-called “ban” on QAnon accounts is too late; the damage has been done

Facebook’s “new policy update” comes too late, as the largest QAnon groups experienced 101% growth rate in the last six months

Earlier today, Facebook announced it was going to ban all QAnon accounts, an update to its August policy of removing QAnon accounts that discussed violence and supposedly limiting the spread of QAnon content.

Angelo Carusone, President of Media Matters for America, which named Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg the misinformer of the year in 2017, issued the following statement:

Facebook helped the QAnon community grow exponentially — and refused to take appropriate action earlier this year when it would have mattered. Then, in a publicity stunt a few weeks ago, Facebook announced a crackdown would come, one that gave the QAnon community ample time to change their names, page descriptions and hashtags in order to flout Facebook’s enforcement. 

In effect, Facebook has made the problem worse: first by helping the QAnon community grow exponentially, then by helping them hide. 

So the big question here is not what is Facebook doing about QAnon: It is what is Facebook doing about all the QAnon content and QAnon communities that have made minor changes to hashtags and keywords to work around Facebook’s rules in order to promote essentially the same dangerous misinformation.

Unless Facebook lays out a more robust and proactive plan, all it is doing with this action is giving QAnon content a chance to rebrand on its platform.

Facebook has had an ongoing problem managing the spread of the QAnon conspiracy theory on the platform. The damage has been done -- a Media Matters analysis found that some of the largest public QAnon groups on Facebook experienced 101% growth since March (and continued to grow at disproportionately high rates even after Facebook’s supposed crackdown in August). 

Additionally, even though the company promised in August to remove QAnon groups that “discuss potential violence,” Facebook either was not able to or refused to successfully enforce this policy. Media Matters reporting shows that many QAnon-affiliated Facebook groups explicitly violating the August policy have been just as active as ever -- and they have continued to gain members in recent months. Recently, QAnon conspiracy theories took off after President Donald Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis.