QAnon “superspreaders” have continued to be active on Facebook, even after the company banned the conspiracy movement from its platform two months ago, according to a report released on Friday.
The report, which identified people who acted as superspreaders of the QAnon conspiracy theory, found that videos and other content posted by the accounts were continuing to rack up likes, comments and shares.
“Even after the ban, personal Facebook profiles — many with large followings — continue to discuss and promote the conspiracy on the platform,” said the report, published by the think tank the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the nonpartisan news-rating organization NewsGuard. The superspreaders, it said, “were found to be a key link in the conspiracy chain.”
QAnon, a vast conspiracy theory that falsely claims that a satanic cabal runs the world, began in 2017. It gained its largest audience during the pandemic.
One of the superspreaders was Larry Cook, an anti-vaccination activist who started sharing QAnon conspiracies earlier this year, according to the report. In the month after the ban, Mr. Cook continued to make and share videos that included QAnon explainers for newcomers and claims that the government was running secret detention camps. Though Mr. Cook was banned by Facebook in mid-November, he still has an account on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
Other accounts that remained active on Facebook included those run by yoga and wellness coaches who share QAnon content, like false claims tying the Covid-19 vaccines to a vast government conspiracy.
“Since August, we’ve removed over 1,700 pages and 5,600 groups related to QAnon and disabled the profiles that ran them,” said Facebook spokeswoman Sarah Pollack. She said the company also redirected people searching for QAnon to credible resources such as the Global Network on Extremism and Technology.
The report, which studied the growth of QAnon on Facebook since the start of the pandemic, found that the movement had embedded itself into the social network’s fabric and was proving impossible to fully remove.
The recent, international spread of QAnon continues, the report said. Three of the 10 most active communities posting QAnon content on Facebook were German-language groups. Fifteen languages were represented in the posts by QAnon followers on Facebook.
One international superspreader, for example, uploaded a video from an American QAnon believer that was narrated in Spanish. The video has been watched more than 786,000 times since April.
Another superspreader account linked to a Brazilian national has uploaded videos viewed tens of thousands of times. Yet another video falsely tied the Hollywood celebrities Sandra Bullock and Ellen DeGeneres to QAnon. It has been viewed over 130,000 times since July.