It all started when two influential democrats on the Capitol Hill urged Facebook Inc. take stronger action against the misinformation, voter suppression and incitements to the violence ahead of the 2020 President election polling on the 3rd November, 2020. In a hard hitting letter sent to the company on Sunday, US Representatives Ms. Pramila Jayapal and David Cicilline accused Facebook of failing to enforce its own rules when it comes to false claims about the election, and not doing enough to stop ‘right wing militias and white supremacist groups’ from using the platform to organise potentially violent events all across USA.
The company took strong action and a new Facebook policy will see all profiles linked to the QAnon conspiracy community wiped out from the Facebook platform whether or not they promote violence, in the Facebook’s latest crackdown on what it claims, is a dangerous movement and may influence the touch and go election results.
Facebook announced the new measures on 6th October 2020, Tuesday, explaining that the decision updates a policy imposed in August targeting QAnon accounts “containing discussions of potential violence,” broadening the ban to any profiles affiliated with the movement. The policy will also apply to Instagram too and similar profiles will be removed.
“Starting today, we will remove any Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts representing QAnon, even if they contain no violent content,” the company said, arguing that the group is tied to other types of “real world harm.” While we’ve removed QAnon content that celebrates and supports violence, we’ve seen other QAnon content tied to different forms of real world harm, including recent claims that the ‘west coast wildfires’ were started by certain groups, which diverted attention of local officials from fighting the fires.
The initial ban on accounts promoting violence saw over 1,500 QAnon pages and groups scrubbed completely from the platform, as well as more than 6,500 linked to other “militarised social movements,” including Antifa and various militia groups. However, the new sweeping ban does not appear to apply to the other movements, singling out the pro – Trump conspiracy community by name. Facebook is banning all QAnon accounts for researching.
Yet Antifa and Black Lives Matter (BLM) are still allowed to discuss which city they are going to burn down next. President Trump has spoken of how supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which has grown online in the US, appear to like him very much. Mr. Trump told journalists that he didn’t know much about the movement, but added that he’d heard that “these were people who love our country.”
The movement is facing a crackdown from Facebook as well as Twitter, who have taken action against thousands of accounts and web addresses linking to videos and websites spreading QAnon’s bizarre ideas.
At its heart, QAnon is a wide – ranging, unfounded conspiracy theory that says that President Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan – worshipping paedophiles in government, business and the media. QAnon believers have speculated that this fight will lead to a day of reckoning where prominent people such as former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be arrested and executed.
Trump on QAnon when asked replied: ‘They do like me’. That’s the basic story, but there are so many offshoots, detours and internal debates that the total list of QAnon claims is enormous – and often contradictory. Adherents draw in news events, historical facts and numerology to develop their own far – fetched conclusions.
In October 2017, an anonymous user put a series of posts on the message board 4chan. The user signed off as “Q” and claimed to have a level of US security approval known as “Q clearance”. These messages became known as “Q drops” or “breadcrumbs”, often written in cryptic language peppered with slogans, pledges and pro – Trump themes.
Actually, thousands do believe in QAnon. The amount of traffic to mainstream social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube has exploded since 2017, and indications are the numbers have gone up further during the coronavirus pandemic.
Judging by social media, there are hundreds of thousands of people who believe in at least some of the bizarre theories offered up by QAnon. And its popularity hasn’t been diminished by events which would seem to debunk the whole thing. For instance, early Q drops focused on the investigation by special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
QAnon supporters claimed Mr. Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 US election was really an elaborate cover story for an investigation into paedophiles. When it concluded with no such bombshell revelation, the attention of the conspiracy theorists drifted elsewhere. True believers of this cult contend deliberate misinformation is sown into Q’s messages – in their minds making the conspiracy theory impossible to disprove.
QAnon supporters drive hashtags and co – ordinate abuse of the perceived enemies – the politicians, celebrities and journalists who they believe are covering up for paedophiles. It’s not just threatening messages online. Twitter says it took action against QAnon because of the potential for “offline harm”. Several QAnon believers have been arrested after making threats or taking offline action. In one notable case in 2018, a heavily armed man blocked a bridge over the Hoover Dam. Matthew Wright later pleaded guilty to a terrorism charge.
Studies indicate that most Americans haven’t heard of QAnon. But for many believers, it forms the foundation of their support for President Trump. In the past, Mr. Trump had, unwittingly or not, retweeted QAnon supporters, and last month his son Eric Trump posted a QAnon meme on the Instagram.
Dozens of QAnon supporters are running for Congress in November. Many have little hope but some, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia – appear to have a good chance of winning a seat. It’s quite likely that a QAnon supporter – or someone sympathetic to the conspiracy theory – will sit in the next US Congress.
Who are the Proud Boys?
Another group which in all probability be banned will be the all – male, neo – fascist group was founded in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder and Canadian – British right – wing activist Gavin McInnes. According to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, the Proud Boys are known for their “anti – Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric” and have been classified as an ‘extremist group’ by the FBI. To be inducted into the fold, a Proud Boy must first proclaim that he is “a Western chauvinist who refuses to apologise for creating the modern world”. According to the Anti – Defamation League (ADL), the group is also known for anti – transgender, anti – immigration and anti – Semitic views.
However, members of the group insist that they are not, in fact, racist. The group’s current leader Enrique Tarrio, an Afro – Cuban, recently said that the group has “longstanding regulations prohibiting racist, white supremacist or violent activity”, USA Today reported. They claim that they do not support white supremacists, and merely banded together to oppose the activities of the anti – fascist movement known as Antifa. But members of the group are often seen at rallies carrying guns and bats and a few have even been convicted of violent crimes against left – wing groups and activists. The group is known to show up bearing arms at right – wing and liberal leaning protests across the United States.
A US – based far – right group called the Proud Boys was brought to the world’s attention after President Donald Trump urged the group to “stand back and stand by” during his first presidential debate against Democratic contender Joe Biden. Trump’s refusal to explicitly denounce the violence caused by the white supremacist and militia groups during Tuesday’s debate sparked widespread outrage across the US. Faced with growing backlash, the President later claimed that he was unfamiliar with this particular group and its activities.
The move has been blasted as another clampdown on free expression online, with even some self – avowed opponents of QAnon deeming it “chilling for free speech.” Others questioned why the new ban targeted QAnon alone, even as a number of militant left – wing groups openly “discuss which city they are going to burn down next.”
Some countered the free speech proponents, however, calling for the deplatforming of the “dangerous disinformation” and “QAnon cult followers,” among them Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D – Virginia) and California state Senator Scott Wiener. Others said the decision should have been made long ago.
Facebook is not the only platform to attempt to purge its Q – friendly users, as Twitter announced its own massive ban of up to 150,000 QAnon – related accounts, blacklisting the group in its recommendations and Trends tabs while barring any associated web links. Like Facebook, Twitter alleged the group’s behaviour had “the potential to lead to offline harm,” also citing “coordinated harmful activity” and “platform manipulation.”
Facebook has deleted a post in which President Trump had claimed Covid – 19 was “less lethal” than the flu.Mr. Trump is at the White House after three days of hospital treatment having tested positive for the virus. He wrote the US had “learned to live with” flu season, “just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” Twitter hid the same message behind a warning about “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information”. Users have to click past the alert to read the tweet.
“We remove incorrect information about the severity of Covid – 19, and have now removed this post,” said Andy Stone, policy communications manager at Facebook. An exact mortality rate for Covid – 19 is not known, but it is thought to be substantially higher – possible 10 times or more – than most flu strains, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The President has reacted by posting: “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!” This is a reference to a law that says social networks are not responsible for the content posted by their users.
Time and again Trump’s digital media and campaign managers are blamed for manipulating the voters and used the ‘cat on the wall syndrome’ to deter voters to vote for democrat candidate in the 2016 elections on the voting day. They tried to dissuade millions of African Americans from voting in the 2016 elections. This program was broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4 news Channel alleged in a report which was broadcast on Monday. The channel’s investigative journalists said they had got hold of a file used by Trump’s team four years ago that’s contains close to 200 million US Voters who were put in a different categories in order to send them targeted ads on the social media.
Among those, more than 3.5 million black Americans were allegedly put into a category dubbed ‘deterrence’ that aimed to push them to abstain from voting. Chanel 4 journalists said African Americans who are by and large loyal to the Democratic Party were targeted by this strategy more than other communities.
In the state of Georgia, for instance black people made up 61% of members of the ‘dissuasion’ category when they only represent 32% of the population, according to the investigation. The message sent were series of fake narrative that their candidate was winning hands down and why the day be spoiled standing in long queues in heat and sun.
The war waging on the social media is hurting normal lives and the hatred emanating from pro and anti-right wing messages will have adverse reaction in the form of mass voting for the winner.