QAnon crackdown: Facebook restricts Save the Children hashtag ahead of Election Day

Just days before Election Day, Facebook is restricting the Save the Children hashtag which the extremist movement QAnon hijacked to push falsehoods about the exploitation of children by Democrats including presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“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,” Facebook said in a statement.

Users searching for that hashtag will now see “credible child safety resources,” Facebook said.

QAnon and pedophilia:Facebook cracks down QAnon for hijacking Save the Children movement

Save the Children?:QAnon fabricates pedophile claims against Joe Biden as election looms

The move is part of a widening QAnon crackdown on Facebook. Facebook users searching for that hashtag and related hashtags already were being directed to credible child safety resources, the company said in a blog post. QAnon content has also been “down-ranked,” meaning it’s far less visible on Facebook’s platforms.

The force accelerating QAnon’s spread on social media? It latched onto legitimate efforts to fight child abuse to expose unsuspecting Americans to its ideology. Followers believe that Trump is a messianic figure battling a “deep state” of devil-worshipping, child-molesting Democrats. 

Observers say the 2016 presidential election spurred the rise of conspiracy theories once confined to the fringes. With influential figures using their social media megaphones to amplify them, incendiary falsehoods that Biden and other Democrats are pedophiles are circulating in the mainstream before the November election in an alarming break from the norms of presidential politicking.

QAnon demonstrators on Aug. 22, 2020, in Los Angeles, California.

QAnon exploits fears about the vulnerability of children to push such allegations into everyday people’s social media feeds, Michael Jensen, a senior researcher at the University of Maryland who leads a team that researches domestic radicalization, told USA TODAY. 

“Stories of child victimization are effective at mobilizing people to support a movement, even if it is based on conspiratorial views,” Jensen said. 

Some social media users who’ve been exposed to QAnon posts about saving the children have turned out to rallies in cities across the country to call for an end to child exploitation. 

“We are seeing this now with QAnon’s use of the ‘Save the Children’ slogan, which has generated support from more mainstream individuals who do not necessarily subscribe to all aspects of the conspiracy,” Jensen said.

#SaveTheChildren began as a fundraising campaign for the Save the Children charity before it was hijacked by QAnon.

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