Facebook to Ban Holocaust Denial, Citing Rise in Anti-Semitism
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Facebook will ban Holocaust denial content on the social network two years after CEO Mark Zuckerberg refused to take down the misinformation.
Why the reversal? Facebook has noticed an increase in anti-Semitism and ignorance about the Holocaust—the very outcome critics were worried would happen if the misinformation persisted on the platform.
“We've long taken down posts that praise hate crimes or mass murder, including the Holocaust. But with rising anti-Semitism, we're expanding our policy to prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust as well,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page today.
Two years ago, Facebook’s CEO was reluctant to take down baseless claims that the Holocaust is a hoax, citing the need to protect free speech. “Look, as abhorrent as some of this content can be, I do think that it gets down to this principle of giving people a voice," Zuckerberg said in an interview with Recode at the time.
Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, went on to say his main gripe with taking down the content is how “it's hard to impugn intent (of Holocaust deniers) and to understand the intent.” In other words, the Holocaust denial may simply come from people who are just misguided.
"Everyone gets things wrong, and if we were taking down people's accounts when they got a few things wrong, then that would be a hard world for giving people a voice,” he added.
But on Monday, Zuckerberg indicated the increase in anti-Semitism forced him to change the policy. Back in May, the Anti-Defamation League reported the American Jewish community in 2019 experienced a record number of anti-Semitic incidents with more than 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism, and harassment.
“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 in his post. “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.”
The whole issue underscores a core complaint around Facebook: That the company is often too slow to take down hate and misinformation on the platform. In recent weeks, Facebook has been cracking down on another major conspiracy theory, QAnon, citing its pro-Trump supporters as causing real-world harm. However, prior to the crackdown, QAnon groups were free to circulate on Facebook, enabling them to attract millions of followers.
Facebook says it’ll take time to crack down on the Holocaust denial, pointing to the need to train its content moderators and computer algorithms to flag the content. But going forward, users who search for the Holocaust on Facebook will be redirected to authoritative sources about the historical event, which claimed the lives of an estimated 6 million Jews.