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Facebook said Monday that it will be banning posts that deny or distort the Holocaust and will start directing people to authoritative sources if they search for information about the Nazi genocide.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new policy in a post on Monday, in the latest attempt by the company to take action against conspiracy theories and misinformation ahead of the US presidential election next month.
Zuckerberg said that he believes the new policy strikes the “right balance” in drawing the lines between what is and isn’t acceptable speech.
“I’ve struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust,” he wrote. “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.”
In a separate blog post, Monika Bickert, vice president of Facebook’s content policy, said that the company was “updating our hate speech policy to prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.”
The move, Bickert said, “marks another step in our effort to fight hate on our services. Our decision is supported by the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people.”
Surveys have shown some younger Americans believe the Holocaust was a myth or has been exaggerated.
The Anti-Defamation League has reported that incidents of white supremacist propaganda distributed across the US jumped by more than 120% between 2018 and last year. Tech companies began promising to take a firmer stand against accounts used to promote hate and violence after a 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a self-described white supremacist drove into a crowd of counterprotesters.
The decision comes amid a push by Holocaust survivors around the world over the summer who lent their voices to a campaign targeting Zuckerberg, urging him to take action to remove Holocaust denial posts from the social media site.
Coordinated by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the #NoDenyingIt campaign used Facebook itself to make the survivors’ entreaties to Zuckerberg heard, posting one video per day urging him to remove Holocaust-denying groups, pages and posts as hate speech.
American Jewish Committee chairman David Harris called the decision “profoundly significant.”
“With knowledge of the systematic Nazi murder of six 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 responding to the announcement.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid also welcomed the move.
“Holocaust denial is an expression of the lowest strain of anti-Semitism that needs to pass from the world and the internet,” he tweeted following Zuckerberg’s post.
Zuckerberg had raised the ire of the Claims Conference, based in New York, and others with comments in 2018 to the tech website Recode that posts denying the Nazi annihilation of 6 million Jews would not necessarily be removed. He said he did not think Holocaust deniers were “intentionally” getting it wrong, and that as long as posts were not calling for harm or violence, even offensive content should be protected.
After an outcry, Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, clarified that while he personally found “Holocaust denial deeply offensive” he believed that “the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech.”
The Claims Conference on Monday lauded Zuckerberg’s changed approach and the company’s decision to take action.
“It’s a very important statement and it’s a building block toward ensuring that this sort of anti-Semitism is not amplified,” said Greg Schneider, the group’s executive vice president.