World News – US – YouTube clamps down on QAnon conspiracy theory, citing offline violence


YouTube played a bigger role in moving QAnon from the periphery to mainstream than most platforms

YouTube on Thursday became the latest social media giant to take action to stop QAnon, the vast pro-Trump conspiracy theory community whose online fantasies of a cabal of satanic pedophiles who run the world have turned into offline violence

The company announced in a blog post that it is updating its hate speech and harassment policies to prohibit « content targeting an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence « The new policy will ban content promoting QAnon, as well as related conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate, which falsely claims top Democrats and Hollywood elites run an underground network of sex trafficking from the basement of a Washington pizzeria

Other social networks have also taken action to curb the spread of QAnon, which has been linked to violence and vandalism Last week, Facebook toughened its rules for QAnon content and compared it to a Increasingly violent ‘militarized social movement’ This week, several smaller platforms, including Pinterest, Etsy and Triller, also announced new restrictions on QAnon content

Under YouTube’s new policy, which took effect Thursday, « content that threatens or harasses someone by suggesting they are complicit » to a harmful theory like QAnon or Pizzagate will be banned. media of those theories and videos that discuss theories without targeting individuals or groups can still be allowed

The QAnon movement began in 2017 when an anonymous poster under the pseudonym « Q Clearance Patriot » or « Q » began posting cryptic messages on 4chan, the notoriously toxic bulletin board, claiming to have classified information about a battle secret between President Trump and a global pedophile cabal QAnon believers – known as « bakers » – began discussing and decoding them in real time on platforms such as Reddit and Twitter, connecting the dots on a modern rebranding of centuries-old anti-Semitic tropes that falsely accused prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and liberal financier George Soros, of pulling strings in a global sex trafficking plot

Few platforms have played a more significant role in moving QAnon from the periphery to mainstream audiences than YouTube. In the early days of the movement, QAnon followers produced YouTube documentaries that offered a crash course in introductory science. fundamental beliefs of the movement The videos have been posted on Facebook and other platforms, and have often been used to attract recruits.Some have been viewed millions of times

QAnon subscribers have also started talk shows on YouTube to discuss new developments related to the theory.Some of these channels have attracted large audiences and have made their owners prominent voices in the movement

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“YouTube has a huge role in Q mythology,” said Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory debunker who writes a book on QAnon. “There are major figures in the Q world who make videos daily, get hundreds of thousands of views and showcase their theories in sleek clips that are a world away from the direct on-camera hikes so important in making conspiracy theory videos »

YouTube has been trying for years to curb the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories on its platform, and to tweak the recommendations algorithm that sent millions of viewers to what it considered to be poor quality In 2019, the company began downgrading what it called ‘borderline content’ – videos that tested its rules, but didn’t quite break them – and reduced the visibility of those videos in the results of research and recommendations

The company claims these changes reduced the number of views that limit content gets from recommendations by more than 70%, although this figure cannot be independently verified YouTube also reports that among a set of pro-QAnon channels , the number of views from recommendations dropped by more than 80% after the 2019 policy change

Social media platforms have come under scrutiny for their policy decisions in recent weeks, with Democrats accusing them of doing too little to stop the spread of right-wing disinformation, and Republicans including M Trump, portray them as censored threats to free speech

YouTube, which is owned by Google, has so far remained largely out of the political fray despite the platform’s enormous popularity – users watch over a billion hours of YouTube videos every day – and the glut of misinformation and conspiracy theories on one service Its managing director, Susan Wojcicki, has not been personally attacked by Mr. Trump or had to testify in Congress, unlike Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

Vanita Gupta, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of civil rights groups, praised YouTube’s decision to crack down on QAnon content

« We applaud YouTube for banning this harmful and hateful content that targets people whose conspiracy theories are used to justify offline violence, especially through efforts like QAnon, » Ms. Gupta said « This online content can lead to real-world violence and promotes hatred that harms entire communities »

Mr. Rothschild, the QAnon researcher, predicted that QAnon believers who were kicked from YouTube would find ways to distribute their videos on smaller platforms He also warned that followers of the movement were known to have attempted to circumvent platform bans and that YouTube should remain vigilant to prevent them from restarting their channels and trying again.

« YouTube banning Q videos and suspending Q promoters is a good step, » he said, « but it won’t be the end of Q Nothing has come this far »


World News – US – YouTube Crackdowns QAnon Conspiracy Theory, Citing Offline Violence


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