Deletions, restrictions, Facebook cleans up thousands of conspiratorial groups

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Manuel Moreno Molina
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While social networks are more than ever the preferred channel for the wildest theories, Facebook has decided to remove or reduce the visibility of thousands of accounts and groups on its site and on Instagram.



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It has taken time, but Facebook finally seems to grasp the extent of its responsibility for the spread of fake news and violent ideologies. While a newly published study points to the social network as an ideal breeding ground for disinformation, Mark Zuckerberg's troops announced on Wednesday August 19 a clear hardening of their policy vis-à-vis potentially dangerous organizations and individuals. . This translates from the outset into a serious sweep among anarchist groups and militias advocating violence as well as within conspiratorial and conspiratorial communities.


As the social network explains, so far, its policy has provided for the removal of content that openly advocates violence or presents an immediate danger to Internet users. From now on, on Facebook as on Instagram, content that indirectly encourages violence, whether by celebrating acts of violence or by suggesting a rally, in particular by displaying weapons, will also be considered dangerous. And if the authors and groups concerned will not be systematically banned, the new rules put in place offer a more extensive arsenal to the firm, in particular to be able to act against groups deemed harmful to public security, but which remain in the nails on the social networks.


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Facebook cites in particular QAnon, a conspiratorial group convinced that Donald Trump is waging a secret fight against a satanic pedophile organization on a global scale and that he could save the world during a military takeover by arresting (between others) all his political opponents. The movement, which appeared in 2017, has recently played a considerable role in spreading false information across the Atlantic and inciting several acts of violence, to the point that the FBI now considers it a potential internal terrorist threat.



Removal or Restrictions

In concrete terms, content falling under this new policy but not justifying a ban may trigger restriction measures. Facebook will “allow people to post content that supports these movements and groups, as long as it doesn't otherwise violate [its] content policies, but [will] restrict their ability to organize on [its] platform” . This will essentially “limit the distribution of content from these Facebook pages and groups, and Instagram accounts”. However, once discussions of a violent nature are identified, “including when they use veiled movement language and symbols to do so”, the pages and groups will be removed without delay.

To limit the visibility of these communities, Facebook announces several measures. The pages and groups on Facebook and Instagram accounts that will be considered associated with these movements can no longer be the subject of automatic recommendations by the algorithms. Their posts will see their prominence reduced in subscribers' news feeds. They will be pushed further in the search results and will no longer be suggested to complete a query. These accounts and groups will also no longer be able to use advertising, use functions intended to generate revenue or sell products. Finally, any fundraising will be blocked for the accounts associated with these movements.

According to Facebook, its troops have already made a first big sweep to clean up the two platforms in accordance with this new policy. Regarding QAnon in particular, "over 790 groups, 100 pages and 1 ads" were ejected from Facebook. More than 500 hashtags have reportedly been blocked on Facebook and Instagram. The restrictions described above, meanwhile, have already been imposed on “more than 300 groups and 1 pages on Facebook and more than 950 accounts on Instagram”. The firm stresses that these figures do not reflect a stronger presence on one or the other platform, but simply a structural difference: Facebook has fewer groups with more members, while Instagram accounts are in comparison more numerous, but less followed. It also indicates that the examination of certain pages is still in progress and that it is not excluded that the restrictions could still turn into outright deletion in certain cases.



On the sidelines of QAnon, Facebook explains that it has also deleted more than 980 groups, 520 pages and 160 advertisements promoting the riots. On Instagram, no less than 1 hashtags popular with these groups have been blocked to prevent them from promoting violence.

Aware that the terminology used by the groups targeted by this policy can change rapidly, Facebook assures that its teams are ready to follow very closely the evolution of the language in these communities and that they will not fail to identify attempts to circumvent the new rules.


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