Facebook Finally Agrees to Remove Holocaust Denial Posts

‘I’ve struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust,’ CEO Mark Zuckerberg says

Last Updated: October 12, 2020 @ 11:04 AM

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reversed his stance on anti-Semitic posts on the social network, announcing Monday that the company will ban content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.

Zuckerberg said a rise in both anti-Semitism and data showing anti-Semitic violence prompted him to revise the decision. “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,” he wrote posted on his personal account.

He added, “I’ve struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust.”

Now if a person searches for or clicks on a post that contains inaccurate or false information about the Holocaust, they will be redirected to credible information outside the site, Facebook lead of content policy Monika Bickert said via company statement.

“Institutions focused on Holocaust research and remembrance, such as Yad Vashem, have noted that Holocaust education is also a key component in combating anti-Semitism,” Bickert wrote. “Beginning later this year, we will direct anyone to credible information off Facebook if they search for terms associated with the Holocaust or its denial on our platform.”

Facebook’s hesitancy to remove posts that deny or distort the historical importance of the Holocaust has drawn criticism, including from actor Sacha Baron Cohen, who spoke at last year’s Anti-Defamation League benefit and argued, “freedom of speech is not freedom of reach.”

This decision comes two years after Zuckerberg — who is Jewish — told Recode that he didn’t think Holocaust denial content on Facebook should be considered hate speech.

At the time of the 2018 interview, Zuckerberg told tech reporter Kara Swisher, “it’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent. I just think, as abhorrent as some of those examples are… I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, ‘We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times.'”

Though he later clarified that he found Holocaust denial “deeply offensive,” Zuckerberg hesitated to revise his company’s position on the content until today.

The International Holocaust Rememberance Alliance told TheWrap in an email Monday, “we welcome Facebook’s decision to update its hate speech policy to prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust. This is an important first step in addressing misinformation that threatens the historical record of the Holocaust, but further work is required to ensure hate speech is directly tackled by all social media companies. We have seen a worrying trend in the rise of Holocaust distortion and denial on social media platforms in recent years and this evil will only continue to grow in strength without further action.”