- Facebook will limit the use of the QAnon conspiracy theory’s “Save our Children” hashtag, the company said Friday.
- A Facebook spokesperson told Insider that the company will be surfacing “credible child safety resources” when users search for “saveourchildren” on the platform.
- QAnon’s pivot from an extreme conspiracy theory to anti-trafficking rhetoric has been integral to its rapid spread on Facebook in particular.
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Facebook will limit the use of the “Save our Children” hashtag, as the movement that’s purportedly against human trafficking has been overtaken by QAnon conspiracy theorists, the company said Friday.
A Facebook spokesperson told Insider that the company will be surfacing “credible child safety resources” when users search for “saveourchildren” on the platform.
“Earlier this week, we stepped up how we enforce our rules against QAnon on pages, events, and groups. Starting today, we’re limiting the distribution of the ‘save our children’ hashtag given we’ve found that content tied to it is now associated with QAnon,” the spokesperson said in a statement, which was first reported by Brandy Zadrozny of NBC News.
While the hashtag will still be usable, Facebook will not allow users to see aggregated results of posts incorporating the hashtag. The company will also continue to seek out ways that QAnon has evaded its restrictions, Facebook said.
As of now, Facebook is not applying the same restrictions to the “savethechildren” hashtag. Both “Save our Children” and “Save the Children,” phrases that have previously been popular in anti-trafficking circles, are used by QAnon, Insider has found.
QAnon is a baseless conspiracy focused on the false idea that President Donald Trump is battling a secret deep-state cabal of satanic pedophiles. By shifting the emphasis of the movement to instead focus on a general anti-pedophilia battlecry, it has been successful in spreading more subtly online, as companies like Facebook say they’re fighting to rid their platforms of QAnon rhetoric.
QAnon’s pivot to “Save the Children” has been integral to the once-fringe conspiracy theory’s recent and rapid entrée into mainstream culture.
With “Save the Children,” also called “Save Our Children,” QAnon has spread with fluffy aesthetics on Facebook-owned Instagram, in what researcher Marc-André Argentino has dubbed “Pastel QAnon.” Many women, including lifestyle influencers, yoga instructors, and other Instagram personalities, have joined in spreading QAnon messaging.
Internal Facebook documents previously obtained by NBC News found that QAnon groups had millions of members before the company announced a ban on the conspiracy theory in early October. An August analysis by First Draft, a nonprofit tracking misinformation online, found that of 3.5 million Facebook users discussing “Save the Children” and “Save Our Children” hashtags, “the most engaging conversations were happening in Facebook groups and on Instagram accounts related to QAnon,” NBC News reported.
While it may be tempting to assume there’s something darker going on behind the scenes, QAnon adherents are simply recycling centuries-old conspiracy theories and weaponizing them against Democrats and liberal celebrities like Chrissy Teigen.
Regardless of the intent, the efforts of QAnon believers are misguided and unhelpful, according to experts and groups fighting real human trafficking. QAnon-linked conspiracy theories, including the Wayfair conspiracy theory, which falsely alleged the furniture company was selling humans on its website, have taken resources from these organizations.
Polaris, which operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, told Insider in a statement, “Unsubstantiated claims and accusations about child sex trafficking can spin out of control and create more harm than good.”