Facebook QAnon Ban Left Too Late

By Ben Hamill - October 13 2020
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Facebook QAnon Ban Left Too Late

Facebook’s recent announcement regarding its planned removal of any accounts associated with or affiliated to conspiracy theory QAnon is necessary and welcome – but at the same time also a case of too little, too late, say experts. Facebook’s platform is essentially designed in such a way that it favours popular opinion and content over the truth.

QAnon is a conspiracy theory promoting the idea that U.S. President Donald Trump is fighting a group of human trafficking-pedophile-murdering-Satanists with connections to Hollywood and consisting mainly of deep-state Jewish Democrats. And it’s a conspiracy theory spanning so wide in terms of the misinformation it seeks to promote, that it’s now considered a superconspiracy, says Antonis Papasavva, a University College London data scientist and cyber-security researcher.

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A More Global Effort Is Required

Rooting out the type of misinforming content promoted by groups such as QAnon require a great deal of time and effort, says Barbara Perry, Director of the Centre on Hate, Bias, and Extremism at Ontario Tech University. And it’s an effort that’s bound to become even more of an uphill battle as time wears on, explained Perry, and mainly because of content being structured in such a way that the language used stops just short of the overstepping of the legal boundaries around misinformation and hate speech.

Over the long term, it’s a battle Facebook will hardly be able to win on its own, says Ghayda Hassan, Director of the Canadian Practitioners Network for Prevention of Radicalization and Extremist Violence. Instead, it needs to be a global initiative powered by a serious engagement of experts skilled in the discipline of the interpretation of “emerging terminology” and new phrases worded in such a way so as to avoid flagging.

Winning The Battle Vs. The War

It is likely that Facebook will have realised the importance of removing the entire QAnon network, says Harvard Kennedy School director of research, Joan Donovan, of the social media giant’s announcement regarding the removal not only of the cabal’s own account from the platform, but also all those associated in whatever way. This is because groups like QAnon are able to rapidly generate (or spawn) new pages in such a way that it soon becomes nearly impossible to stop the production line from continuing to exist in the public domain.

And it’s a reaction already clearly visible after Facebook’s crackdown on QAnon-groups. According to the numbers published by the social media giant, Facebook has since August removed some 1,500+ groups and pages associated with QAnon. And yet, the movement has continued to thrive and flourish.

Worst of all is that according to data experts – ban or no ban – it will continue to do exactly that.

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