Facebook on Monday announced that it was finally banning posts that deny or distort the Holocaust.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the social media platform is “updating our hate-speech policy to ban Holocaust denial.”
“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,” he wrote. “If people search for the Holocaust on Facebook, we’ll start directing you to authoritative sources to get accurate information.”
Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, said he’d “struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust.”
However, he continued by acknowledging that “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,” he said.
Jewish groups which have long pressured social media networks to take a stronger stance on anti-Semitism hailed the move.
Anti-Defamation League CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “This has been years in the making. Having personally engaged with @Facebook on the issue, I can attest the ban on Holocaust Denial is a big deal. Whether it’s @ADL & #StopHateForProfit’s insistence, #NoDenyingIt-it doesn’t matter. Glad it finally happened.”
This has been years in the making. Having personally engaged with @Facebook on the issue, I can attest the ban on Holocaust Denial is a big deal. Whether it's @ADL & #StopHateForProfit's insistence, #NoDenyingIt-it doesn't matter. Glad it finally happened. https://t.co/Yc2idnv33u
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) October 12, 2020
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said Facebook’s decision delivers “a significant blow” to anti-Semites and will help curb “the proliferation of harmful and inciting lies on the world’s largest social-media platform.”
American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris called the move “profoundly significant.”
“With knowledge of the systematic Nazi murder of 6 million Jews waning in the United States and around the world, particularly among young people, the power and credibility of Facebook are vital to preserving the facts of the most documented genocide in history, and helping maintain the guardrails against any possible recurrence,” Harris said in a statement.
“There shouldn’t be a sliver of doubt about what the Nazi German regime did, nor should such a mega-platform as Facebook be used by anti-Semites to peddle their grotesque manipulation of history.”
Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Holocaust denial was never about free speech and was only used “as a tool for genocide-seeking Iran, neo-Nazis and bigots to demean the dead and threaten the living.”
“At a time when the Internet is awash with fake news and technological tools that enable governments and virtually anyone to manipulate information, we welcome Facebook’s change of policy to stand with historic fact and the 6 million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany during World War II,” the two said in a statement.
Sacha Roytman-Dratwa, director of the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement, echoed Hier and Cooper, noting that Holocaust denial was “well beyond the realms of free speech.”
She called on Facebook to “show that it is prepared to not only enforce this important decision, but that it will censure the vitriolic voices that promulgate these lies.”
Two years ago, Zuckerberg told Recode that Holocaust denial posts shouldn’t automatically be removed for “getting it wrong”.
“I’m Jewish and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” he said at the time.
“I find it deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”