Facebook has removed a number of Scottish groups on its platform identified by The Ferret as being associated with a far-right cult called QAnon.
The social media giant announced on 6 October that it would begin removing pages, groups and individuals affiliated with QAnon from its platforms.
QAnon, aka Q, is deemed a domestic terror threat by the FBI. In the US, multiple attacks have been carried out by individuals espousing Q’s beliefs.
QAnon’s followers believe that anonymous messages left on imageboard 8kun (formerly called 8chan) reveal that Donald Trump is battling a Satan-worshipping cabal of paedophiles comprised of celebrities, business leaders and politicians considered to be political enemies of the far right.
The cult has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers worldwide over the internet. Trump has praised QAnon.
An investigation in September by The Ferret revealed that thousands of people in Scotland had engaged with Facebook pages promoting the cult.
We reported two weeks later these Facebook pages had not been removed. But some have now been taken down.
The page Stand Up for Our Children, which organised the first QAnon rally in Scotland, has been removed, as has the group Save Our Children Scotland. Another called Fighting for Our Children has also been deleted.
Laura Ward, whose organisation Freedom for the Children UK (FFTCUK) coordinated the QAnon movement in cities across the UK, has had her personal Facebook account removed. Ward was contacted for a comment but did not respond.
FFTCUK denies being affiliated with QAnon, stating “we can’t control or censor what our members choose to believe”.
However, FFTCUK’s official campaign page has not yet been removed, nor has the Facebook group associated with it, which has over 13,000 members.
Ward has been reinstated as an admin for the FFTCUK’s group, now using a new account. The group did not reply to our request for a comment.
“It’s going to be a lot harder with just 150 friends on my page,” said Ward announcing her return in a Facebook live video.
Likewise, group admins with Fighting for Our Children have started using a backup group, and many members of Save Our Children Scotland have joined a UK-wide replacement group.
They continue to try and organise protests despite the new groups’ substantially lower memberships. Some users have suggested the groups switch to alternative social media sites.
The replacement page for Save Our Children Scotland has instituted rules forbidding any mention of QAnon.
An admin post urges discretion from group members. It says: “Remember that your comments will decide if this group remains on facebook. So please do not use comments that will go against community standards. Sadly the hashtag Sav….Ou….Chil….is also a tracker to shut us down too 😔 I know this will be difficult but keeping this platform is worth us all making some sacrifice.”
Facebook would not clarify whether these new groups would also be removed.
A spokesperson for Facebook said it has removed “1,700 pages, 5,600 groups and about 18,700 Instagram accounts representing QAnon”. The platform plans to remove more.
The spokesperson added: “As noted within the post, we will remove any Facebook pages, groups and Instagram accounts representing QAnon, even if they contain no violent content.
“Since then we have removed thousands of Facebook pages and groups, and blocked hundreds of hashtags across Facebook and Instagram associated with QAnon, which has significantly impacted their reach.”
At the 2020 US election, Marjorie Taylor Greene became the first supporter of QAnon to win a US House seat.
Greene is a Republican businesswoman. She was declared the winner in Georgia’s 14th congressional district.
A report last month by anti-racism organisation Hope not Hate revealed that one in four people in Britain agree with conspiracies propagated by QAnon.
The research for Hope Not Hate also found that 17 per cent of people questioned said they believed Covid-19 was intentionally released as part of a “depopulation plan” by the UN or “new world order”.
Polling of 15,000 people by the organisation also revealed that one in 10 Americans now identify themselves to varying degrees as supporters of QAnon, and of those who identify as strong supporters, Trump had 59 per cent support compared to 29 per cent who back Biden.
Hope not Hate said: “The fact that one in 10 Americans (roughly equating to 30 million adults) identify with a conspiracy that the FBI has identified as a “domestic terrorist” threat is pretty amazing, especially as the movement only emerged in November 2017.
“While these people are drawn from across the political spectrum, most now say that they are backing Donald J. Trump for President.
“Perhaps more worryingly, three-quarters of strong QAnon supporters and two-thirds of soft supporters believe that violence is sometimes necessary to defend something they strongly believe in.
“Half of those who identify as strong QAnon supporters (49 per cent) strongly agree with the statement, with a further 24 per cent partially agreeing. Only 18 per cent disagree.”