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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.

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.