Facebook said Monday that the new policy is “supported by the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism around the world and alarming ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people.”
After a 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a self-described white supremacist drove into a crowd of counter-protesters, tech companies vowed to stand up against accounts promoting hate and violence. However, Facebook and other companies have responded more slowly to posts that reinforce false information but do not pose an imminent threat of violence or other physical harm.
Zuckerberg said in a blog post on Monday that he believes the new policy will strike the “right balance” when it comes to drawing the line between acceptable and unacceptable language.
Zuckerberg had piqued the wrath of the New York-based Claims Conference and others with comments in 2018 on tech website Recode that posts denying the Nazi extermination of 6 million Jews did not necessarily need to be removed. He said he does not believe that Holocaust deniers are “deliberately” doing something wrong and that as long as posts do not claim harm or violence, offensive content should also be protected.
After an outcry, Zuckerberg, himself a Jew, made it clear that he personally found “Holocaust denial profoundly offensive” but believed that “the best way to combat offensive bad language is good language”.
The Anti-Defamation League said it was relieved by Monday’s postponement, but criticized Facebook for taking nearly a decade after the New York-based group first publicly urged the company to curb Holocaust denial in 2011 . The group tracked more anti-Semitic incidents in the US last year than ever in the past four decades, and has said it continues to find Holocaust denial groups on Facebook, some hidden and the most private.
“While Facebook has made numerous positive changes to its policies since then, it has stubbornly maintained this outrageous platform policy, even in the face of the undeniable threat of growing anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence around the world,” the group’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote on its website .
“It is a very important statement and a building block to ensure that this type of anti-Semitism is not amplified,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the group.
The group released their 75th video of a Holocaust survivor on Sunday, which Zuckerberg spoke directly to. Fred Kurz, an American who was born in Austria in 1937, described the loss of both of his parents in concentration camps.
Zuckerberg never met with the group directly, but Schneider said he believed the survivors’ voices and their “moral authority” made a difference.
Facebook said Monday it would immediately begin removing Holocaust denial posts from Facebook and Instagram that it owns, but it could take some time to train the company’s technical systems and human moderators to enforce on a global scale.
Several other groups that had urged Facebook to enforce Holocaust denial more strictly said Monday’s move was an important step.
“Facebook shows that it recognizes denial of the Holocaust for what it really is – a form of anti-Semitism and thus hate speech,” said Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, in a prepared statement.
Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, said it supports Facebook’s new initiative to direct its users to “credible and fact-based” information about the Holocaust like the memorial’s website.
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