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Monday, October 19, 2020

Facebook Bans Holocaust Denial In Major Reversal


Facebook announced Monday that it will now ban any content that “denies or distorts the Holocaust” on its platform—two years after CEO Mark Zuckerberg came under fire for specifically defending the social media network allowing such content—as the company responds to growing outrage over its inability to fully eradicate hate speech from its platform.

Key Facts

Facebook specifically cited the “well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally” as a reason behind the decision to expand its hate speech policy to include Holocaust denial.

The company also cited a recent survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which found a “worrying lack of basic Holocaust knowledge” among millenials and Generation Z.

Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post that users who search for the Holocaust will now be directed toward “authoritative sources to get accurate information.”

Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, defended the company allowing Holocaust denial in 2018, telling Recode that while he finds it “deeply offensive,” “I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.”

Zuckerberg’s comments—which suggested he did not believe Holocaust deniers are “intentionally getting it wrong”—drew widespread criticism, and Zuckerberg later clarified that he “absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.”

An August study from the U.K.-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that Facebook’s algorithm “actively recommended” Holocaust denial content and the social network—along with other platforms like Twitter—“provide[s] a home to an established and active community of Holocaust deniers.”

Crucial Quote

“I’ve struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust,” Zuckerberg wrote. “My own thinking has evolved as I’ve seen data showing an increase in anti-Semitic violence, as have our wider policies on hate speech. Drawing the right lines between what is and isn’t acceptable speech isn’t straightforward, but with the current state of the world, I believe this is the right balance.”

Big Number

49%. That’s the percentage of millennial and Gen Z respondents to the Claims Conference survey that said they “have seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online.”

Key Background

Facebook has been taking stronger action against the proliferation of hate speech and misinformation on its platform in recent months, banning high-profile movements like QAnon and taking stronger action against white supremacist and self-described militia groups while strengthening policies around issues like voting-based misinformation. The efforts come as Facebook has come under widespread criticism for its repeated permissiveness of hate speech on its platform, which spurred a widespread “Stop Hate For Profit” advertising boycott. Despite the company’s actions, however, issues with the company’s enforcement of its hate speech policies still remain, as when Facebook initially left up the Facebook page for a self-described militia group in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that posted a “call to arms” event in August directly before two protesters in Kenosha were shot. (Zuckerberg later described the company’s failure to remove the page as an “operational mistake.”)

Further Reading

Hosting the ‘Holohoax’: A Snapshot of Holocaust Denial Across Social Media (ISD)

First-Ever 50-State Survey On Holocaust Knowledge of American Millenials and Gen Z Reveals Shocking Results (Claims Conference)

The controversy over Mark Zuckerberg’s comments on Holocaust denial, explained (Vox)

Facebook Has Banned QAnon (Forbes)

Facebook Sued By Victims Of Kenosha Protest Violence For ‘Empowering’ Militias (Forbes)

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