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Facebook internal investigation uncovers millions of QAnon conspiracy theory members

Facebook has uncovered thousands of groups and pages, with millions of members and followers, that support the QAnon conspiracy theory, according to internal company documents.

The tech giant has been under immense pressure to clamp down on hate speech and dangerous conspiracy theories, both of which are found in abundance on the site.

Last year the company announced new policies to reduce the visibility of vaccine misinformation on its platform, including rejecting advertising and excluding groups and pages from search results that spread ‘vaccine hoaxes.’ 

Facebook has since June been studying the QAnon movement – a wide-ranging, unfounded conspiracy theory that says that Donald Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping pedophiles in government, business and the media. 

Several Republican candidates for Congress have openly expressed support for QAnon, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, who recently declared that QAnon was ‘a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this supposed global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out. 

In July, a Facebook spokesperson told NBC News that that company was investigating QAnon as part of a larger look at groups with potential ties to violence. 

On Monday the results of Facebook’s internal investigation, reviewed by NBC News, showed that QAnon sites and groups had proliferated on the platform.

The top 10 groups identified in the investigation collectively contain more than one million members, with totals from more top groups and pages pushing the number of members and followers past three million. 

It is not clear how much overlap there is among the groups. 

The investigation is likely to inform what, if any, action Mark Zuckerberg decides to take against QAnon.

An announcement about Facebook’s ultimate decision is also expected to target members of ‘militias and other violent social movements,’ according to the documents and Facebook employees who spoke to the broadcaster.

A small team working this summer across several of Facebook’s departments found 185 advertisements that the company had accepted ‘praising, supporting, or representing’ QAnon, according to an internal post shared among more than 400 employees, and obtained by NBC. 

The ads generated about $12,000 for Facebook and four million impressions in the last 30 days.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company has routinely enforced its rules on QAnon groups.

Last week, Facebook removed a QAnon group with nearly 200,000 members ‘for repeatedly posting content that violated our policies.’ 

‘Enforcing against QAnon on Facebook is not new: we consistently take action against accounts, Groups, and Pages tied to QAnon that break our rules,’ the spokesperson said. 

‘Just last week, we removed a large Group with QAnon affiliations for violating our content policies, and removed a network of accounts for violating our policies against coordinated inauthentic behavior. 

‘We have teams assessing our policies against QAnon and are currently exploring additional actions we can take.’

On Sunday The Daily Telegraph reported that Google is blocking shopping searches related to QAnon.

In July, Twitter announced it had banned 7,000 QAnon accounts for breaking its rules around platform manipulation, misinformation and harassment. 

Twitter also said it would no longer recommend QAnon accounts and content, would stop such content from appearing in trends and search, and would block QAnon’s internet links. 

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