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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook announced on Wednesday it has banned or restricted hundreds of groups, pages and Instagram accounts that "demonstrated significant risks to public safety" via their ties to the right-wing QAnon conspiracy movement.

Why it matters: QAnon has morphed from a fringe conspiracy theory into a sprawling network of falsehoods sowing fear and confusion as it has seeped into the mainstream and taken stances on critical issues like the coronavirus pandemic and election integrity.

Details: Facebook said it will restrict the spread of QAnon content on its pages, groups and Instagram accounts. The company will allow people to post content that supports movements such as QAnon if other policies are not broken, such as those against harassment, fake accounts, hate speech or inciting violence.

  • Facebook said that QAnon pages and groups will be ranked lower in its News Feed in the "near future" and that hashtags, titles or accounts associated with the conspiracy theory will be demoted in search results.

By the numbers: The company noted that it has removed over 790 groups, 100 pages and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon, leveled restrictions on over 10,000 Instagram accounts alongside 1,950 groups and 440 Facebook pages, and blocked more than 300 hashtags across Facebook and Instagram.

What to watch: Facebook's hard line against spreading QAnon misinformation could further inflame accusations from Republicans, including President Trump, that social media platforms are biased against conservatives.

  • At least 11 Republican congressional nominees have publicly supported or defended QAnon, which claims without proof that the "deep state" is waging a secret war against Trump, based on posts from an anonymous internet user claiming to be an administration official.

Go deeper

Nov 19, 2020 - Technology

Facebook removed 265,000 pieces of content on voter interference

Photo Illustration by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Facebook says it removed more than 265,000 pieces of content from Facebook and Instagram in the U.S. for violating its content policies on voter interference leading up to the election.

Why it matters: The company was much more proactive this election cycle than last in taking down and labeling content attempting to disrupt the election.

2 mins ago - Science

Blizzard likely to hit New England this weekend as "bomb cyclone" forms

Computer model projection of the precipitation and wind field from the weekend storm in the Northeast. (Earth.nullschool.net)

A powerful blizzard is likely to strike parts of New England and the Mid-Atlantic beginning Friday and lasting into the weekend, with snow totals that are likely to be measured in feet.

The big picture: The joining of weather systems embedded in both the polar, or northern branch, of the jet stream and the southern branch is projected to create a bomb cyclone. Such storms undergo a process known as bombogenesis, with their minimum central air pressure readings plunging at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.

Report: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire

Justice Stephen Breyer. Photo: MANDEL NGAN / AFP via Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will retire, NBC news first reported on Wednesday, giving President Biden his first — and maybe only — chance to put a stamp on the high court.

What’s next: Appointing a new Supreme Court justice will be one of the longest-lasting pieces of Biden’s legacy — and could give Democrats a jolt of energy ahead of next year's midterms.