YouTube Cracks Down on QAnon, Conspiracy Theory Videos

FILE – In this May 14, 2020 file photo, a person carries a sign supporting QAnon at a protest rally in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

(CN) — Google-owned YouTube became the latest media company Thursday to take steps to curb violence-stoking conspiracy theories from proliferating on its platform.

“Today we’re further expanding both our hate and harassment policies to prohibit content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence,” the company said in an announcement aimed at QAnon, a discredited conspiracy theory born on the internet that claims the world is run by a group of devil-worshiping pedophiles operating a global sex-trafficking ring while actively scheming to undermine President Donald Trump. 

QAnon’s origins have been traced to 2017, when a user of the online message board website 4chan claiming to have high-level military clearance and calling himself “Q Clearance Patriot” posted he had information about Trump’s war against a secret cabal of liberal “deep state” pedophiles.

YouTube said it would ban videos harassing or threatening people by suggesting their involvement or complicity with “harmful conspiracies” like QAnon and Pizzagate, an online hoax about a Washington, D.C. pizzeria falsely identified as the headquarters of a child sex-trafficking ring led by Hilary Clinton.

Its Thursday announcement also cited earlier efforts to stem misinformation by tinkering with its video recommendation algorithm to downgrade “clickbait” videos with misleading titles. This measure supposedly resulted in a 70% drop in views coming from YouTube’s recommendations. YouTube said views of prominent QAnon channels coming from recommendations fell by 80% after the company reduced their visibility. 

The company also removed tens of thousands of QAnon videos, “particularly those that explicitly threaten violence or deny the existence of major violent events.”

YouTube’s conspiracy theory crackdown follows on the heels of other social media giants. 

Facebook last week banned all QAnon groups, pages and Instagram accounts — even those that do not promote violence — and compared it to a “militarized social movement.”

Twitter also clamped down on QAnon this summer by purging thousands of related accounts. 

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