What Made Facebook Reverse its Policy on Holocaust Denial Content?

The rise in anti-Semitism has prompted Mark Zuckerberg "to prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust" on Facebook. The change in social media giant's policy has come three years after Zuckerberg had defended the rights of Holocaust deniers to express their views on social media.

Announcing the update in hate speech policy to ban Holocaust denial, Zuckerberg wrote in a post: "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. If people search for the Holocaust on Facebook, we'll start directing you to authoritative sources to get accurate information".

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during his speech at Georgetown University in October 2019 Facebook

The Anti-Defamation League, an international Jewish non-governmental organization based in the United States, has been publishing an annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents in the US since 1979 and as per their data, 2019 recorded the highest number of incidents (more than 2100 criminal and non-criminal acts).

Admitting the struggle while making the decision between freedom of expression and harm caused due to movements denying holocaust, the company founder and CEO has decided to draw the lines between what is acceptable and what isn't as free speech.

Holocaust deniers on Facebook propagated the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews or "Zionists" have orchestrated the "hoax" for the creation of Israel and control the world.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany had Holocaust survivors leading a #NoDenyingIt campaign to urge Zuckerberg to remove Holocaust denial posts from the social media site.

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The move has been welcomed by the civil rights group, who wished the decision had come earlier. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti Defamation League (ADL), said in a tweet that he is relieved about Zuckerberg and Facebook recognizing the harm Holocaust Denial causes.

"Again, I wish this had happened five years ago, three years ago or even earlier this year, but as MLK said: "The time is always right to do what is right," he wrote in a tweet.

Facebook has been long accused of giving space to hate speech while it has over time changed its policies to ensure that the social media platform is not used to incite violence.

As the social media giant continues efforts to control the spread of misinformation and hate speech on the platform, Facebook's former head of global elections integrity for political ads Yael Eisenstat told TIME that if the decision is not accompanied by a complete retooling of how the business model works, "then it will just be another whack-a-mole content moderation plan without changing any of the core mechanisms that encourage and amplify this kind of behavior".

A survey commissioned by Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) published in September revealed that almost two-thirds of adults in the US aged 18-39 do not know that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and more than one in 10 believe Jews caused the Holocaust.

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