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U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said QAnon conspiracy believers like him and “love our country,” seeming to back the conspiracy group. (Aug. 19)

AP Domestic

Facebook said Wednesday it is cracking down on QAnon for hijacking the Save The Children movement to push falsehoods about the exploitation of children by prominent Democrats including presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“We are taking steps to address evidence that QAnon adherents are increasingly using the issue of child safety and hashtags like #savethechildren to recruit and organize,” Facebook said.

Facebook users searching for that hashtag and related hashtags will be directed to credible child safety resources, the company said in a blog post. 

QAnon content has also been “down-ranked,” meaning it’s far less visible on Facebook’s platforms.

“In addition, content about QAnon and child safety is eligible for fact checking through our third-party fact-checking program. Content that is debunked will be reduced in News Feed and filtered from Explore and hashtags on Instagram, will receive a label (so that people who see it, try to share it or already have, will see more context), and it will be rejected as an ad,” the blog post said.

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Facebook said Wednesday it is also banning ads that praise or support extremist conspiracy group QAnon and militia groups. In August, Facebook removed hundreds of groups, pages and ads tied to Qanon.

USA TODAY reported this week that QAnon has latched onto legitimate efforts to fight child abuse to expose unsuspecting Americans to its ideology.

QAnon followers believe that Trump is a messianic figure battling a “deep state” of devil-worshipping, child-molesting Democrats. 

Observers say the 2016 presidential election spurred the rise of conspiracy theories once confined to the fringes. With influential figures using their social media megaphones to amplify them, incendiary falsehoods that Biden and other Democrats are pedophiles are circulating in the mainstream before the November election in an alarming break from the norms of presidential politicking.

QAnon is exploiting fears about the vulnerability of children to push such allegations into everyday people’s social media feeds, Michael Jensen, a senior researcher at the University of Maryland who leads a team that researches domestic radicalization, told USA TODAY. 

“Stories of child victimization are effective at mobilizing people to support a movement, even if it is based on conspiratorial views,” Jensen said. 

Some social media users who’ve been exposed to QAnon posts about saving the children have turned out to rallies in cities across the country to call for an end to child exploitation. 

“We are seeing this now with QAnon’s use of the ‘Save the Children’ slogan, which has generated support from more mainstream individuals who do not necessarily subscribe to all aspects of the conspiracy,” Jensen said.

#SaveTheChildren began as a fundraising campaign for the Save the Children charity before it was hijacked by QAnon.

In recent months, millions have seen anti-child-trafficking memes, according to data from CrowdTangle, a public insights tool owned by Facebook. From June 1 to Sept. 24, there were nearly 5.3 million interactions with posts on public pages and in public groups on Facebook that mentioned #SaveTheChildren. Public posts on Instagram had about another 11.6 million interactions.

According to data prepared for USA TODAY by media intelligence company Zignal Labs, Save the Children has received nearly 2.6 million mentions on Twitter since June 1.

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2020/09/30/facebook-cracks-down-qanon-save-children-trump/5875372002/