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YouTube cracks down on QAnon conspiracy theory videos, citing real-world violence

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FILE – This March 20, 2018 file photo shows the YouTube app on an iPad in Baltimore. YouTube is following the lead of Twitter and Facebook, saying that it is taking more steps to limit QAnon and other baseless conspiracy theories that can lead to real-world violence. The Google-owned video platform said Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 it will now prohibit material targeting a person or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify violence. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

(CBS) YouTube is cracking down on QAnon, “Pizzagate” and other conspiracy theory content on its platform that has been “used to justify real-world violence” against groups or individuals, the company announced Thursday. 

The new policies, the company said, went into effect Thursday and will be continually updated due to the “evolving nature and shifting tactics of groups promoting these conspiracy theories.”

The company removed tens of thousands of QAnon videos and terminated hundreds of channels under its existing policies, it said, taking aim at those that explicitly threaten violence or deny the existence of major violent events.

The updated policy isn’t a ban on QAnon but some content will be removed if it meets the criteria outlined in Thursday’s blog post, according to YouTube. The company anticipates it will have a “significant impact” on the remaining QAnon content on the platform. 

The announcement comes more than a week after Facebook banned QAnon pages, groups and Instagram accounts. Over the summer, Twitter unveiled a plan to limit the impact of QAnon-related content. 

Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor at Syracuse University who studies disinformation, told “CBS Sunday” that QAnon is “a bundle of different beliefs, but the one that often gets focused on the most is the idea that Donald Trump is fighting, and winning, a war against, Satanic, cannibalistic, child-molesting top Democrats.”

“This idea that you have a group of Obama holdovers who are actively trying to undermine Trump at every turn,” Phillips added. “And sometimes that is explicitly referred to as the ‘deep state.'”

While the FBI has warned conspiracy theories like QAnon pose a growing domestic terrorism threat, it is gaining legitimacy in the form of some GOP candidates running for office and the White House. President Trump has shared QAnon content on his Twitter page and has not refused to distance himself from it. 

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