Facebook has announced a ban on posts denying or skewing the Holocaust and will refer people to authoritative sources when searching for information about the Nazi genocide.
- Holocaust survivors around the world have taken action to crack down on those who deny the genocide
- Mark Zuckerberg previously said that “the best way to combat offensive bad language is with good language”
- Facebook will begin removing the content immediately, but said it could take some time to train technical systems and human moderators
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced the new policy. This is the company’s latest attempt to crack down on conspiracy theories and misinformation ahead of the November 3rd US presidential election.
The decision follows a push by Holocaust survivors around the world who voted for the #NoDenyingIt campaign, coordinated by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also known as the Claims Conference.
Activists posted one video a day on Facebook asking Mr. Zuckerberg to remove groups, pages and posts that deny the Holocaust as hate speech.
The survival reports coincided with an advertising boycott from companies pushing Facebook to stand up against various forms of hate speech and extremism around the world.
Facebook said the new policy was “supported by the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism around the world and alarming ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people.”
Polls have shown that some younger Americans believe the Holocaust is a myth or an exaggeration.
Tech companies vowed to take a more resolute stance on accounts promoting hatred and violence after a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, where a self-described white supremacist drove into a crowd of counter-protesters.
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.
Mr Zuckerberg said in a blog post that he believed that the new policy strikes the “right balance” when it comes to drawing the line between acceptable and unacceptable language.
“I struggle with the tension between advocating free speech and the harm caused by minimizing or rejecting the horrors of the Holocaust,” he wrote.
“My own thinking has evolved after seeing data showing an increase in anti-Semitic violence, as has our broader policies on hate speech.”
Mr. Zuckerberg brought the anger of the Claims Conference to the recode tech website in 2018 with comments that posts denying the Nazi extermination of 6 million Jews would not necessarily be removed.
He said he does not believe that Holocaust deniers are doing anything wrong “on purpose” and that as long as posts do not claim harm or violence, offensive content should also be protected.
After an outcry, Mr. Zuckerberg, who is 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 through good language”.
Groups wonder why it took years to change
The Anti-Defamation League welcomed the postponement, but criticized that it took Facebook nearly a decade to finally take action.
The New York-based group that wants to stop defamation of the Jewish people first publicly called on the company in 2011 to curb Holocaust denial.
The group tracked more anti-Semitic incidents in the US last year than ever in the past four decades, and said they continue to find Holocaust denial groups on Facebook.
Some are hidden and most are 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 managing director Jonathan Greenblatt wrote on a blog- Contribution.
The Claims Conference also praised the postponement.
“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, addressing Mr. Zuckerberg directly.
Fred Kurz, an American who was born in Austria in 1937, described the loss of both of his parents in concentration camps.
Mr. Zuckerberg never met with the group directly, but Mr. Schneider said he believed that the survivors’ voices and their “moral authority” made a difference.
“Honestly, I’m a little surprised it took 75 days, but I’m glad it happened,” he said.
Facebook said 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.
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