YouTube announced on Thursday a new prohibition against QAnon conspiracy theory content that has the potential to inspire violence. The decision follows similar moves by Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and Etsy.
The core QAnon theory holds that an international pedophile cabal secretly controls the world, and President Donald Trump is trying to take it down. Prominent Democrats and entertainers are among those who supposedly belong to this fictitious cabal.
QAnon has flourished online. YouTube videos have been key to indoctrinating new believers. Now the company is taking a step towards trying to curb that trend.
While not a blanket ban, in a blog post YouTube said that it's updating its "policies to prohibit content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence." YouTube specifically pointed to, as an example, "content that threatens or harrasses someone by suggesting they are complicit in one of these harmful conspiracies" like QAnon and PizzaGate.
YouTube, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet, has already begun enforcing the new policy by deleting some of the largest QAnon channels, such as Patriots Soapbox, In the Matrixxx and Praying Medic.
"...[W]e’ve removed tens of thousands of QAnon-videos and terminated hundreds of channels under our existing policies, particularly those that explicitly threaten violence or deny the existence of major violent events," YouTube stated.
People who've lost loved ones to the conspiracy theory hope that the bans will free the afflicted from the shackles of QAnon. "My husband followed so many of these. Maybe going a while without watching will starve his brainworms," one woman tweeted. "I'm fucking ecstatic right now."
While some congratulated YouTube for the move, others wondered what took so long. "Closing the barn door after the horses got out," opined @SigmundBloom, one of a chorus of people expressing much the same sentiment.
Affected accounts have already taken to Twitter to protest and complaint. "Let the lawsuits begin," Edge of Wonder tweeted.
If YouTube's enforcement unfolds like it has on other platforms, it may be a matter of time before those channels return. Some have reportedly already begun telling fans to subscribe to back-up channels.
YouTube has indicated that it isn't done yet. In its blog post, the company said more changes may be to come.
"Due to the evolving nature and shifting tactics of groups promoting these conspiracy theories, we’ll continue to adapt our policies to stay current and remain committed to taking the steps needed to live up to this responsibility," the company wrote.
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