Did Facebook ban over 700 pages dedicated to exposing pedophilia? No, that's not true: The groups, pages and ads that were removed were tied to QAnon, a conspiracy theory that uses the issue of child trafficking as a recruitment tool.
FB banned over 700 pages dedicated to expose pedophilia. That should scare the fuck out of everyone. #SaveOurChildren
This is what the post looked like at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Aug 27 13:30:52 2020 UTC)
The post is an apparent reference to actions Facebook announced this month. Under increasing pressure to police harmful content, the social media site said that it was moving against accounts tied to anarchist groups that support violent acts, U.S.-based militia organizations and QAnon. Specifically, about QAnon, Facebook said:
As a result of some of the actions we've already taken, we've removed over 790 groups, 100 Pages and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon from Facebook, blocked over 300 hashtags across Facebook and Instagram, and additionally imposed restrictions on over 1,950 Groups and 440 Pages on Facebook and over 10,000 accounts on Instagram.
All this begs the question: What is QAnon? And what, exactly, is its connection to child trafficking?
QAnon is a far-reaching, far-right conspiracy theory that alleges a powerful cabal of Satan-worshipping elites is running a global child sex-trafficking ring. The cabal is said to include some leading Democrats, like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, we well as some of the world's top entertainers, such as Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey. In this worldview, President Donald Trump is a hero, battling pedophilia and a shadowy "deep state."
The theory is not based in fact. But, like all theories, it needs supporters to survive -- and QAnon uses the issue of child trafficking to attract new believers. It plays on peoples' genuine concerns for children, while exploiting their fears.
In a recent explainer piece, The New York Times describes QAnon's strategy as follows:
What they're doing, basically, is using false and exaggerated claims about child trafficking to attract the attention of a new audience -- in this case, worried parents. Then, they attempt to steer the conversation to QAnon talking points -- saying that the reason children are being trafficked, for example, is because the global cabal wants to harvest a supposedly life-extending chemical from their blood.
Unfortunately, for anti-trafficking organizations, this strategy can present real problems. For example, when a rumor took off that Wayfair was selling trafficked children, calls to a national human trafficking hotline spiked, straining its resources.
(Editors' Note: Facebook is a client of Lead Stories, which is a third-party fact checker for the social media platform. On our About page, you will find the following information:
Since February 2019 we are actively part of Facebook's partnership with third party fact checkers. Under the terms of this partnership we get access to listings of content that has been flagged as potentially false by Facebook's systems or its users and we can decide independently if we want to fact check it or not. In addition to this we can enter our fact checks into a tool provided by Facebook and Facebook then uses our data to help slow down the spread of false information on its platform. Facebook pays us to perform this service for them but they have no say or influence over what we fact check or what our conclusions are, nor do they want to.)