Oct 12, 2020 - Economy

Facebook bans Holocaust denial on its platform

Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Monday that the tech giant would be expanding its hate speech policies to ban any content that "denies or distorts the Holocaust."

Why it matters: Zuckerberg was caught flat-footed in a 2018 interview with Kara Swisher, then host of the Recode Decode podcast, when he said that he didn't believe Facebook should take down Holocaust denial content because "I think there are things that different people get wrong," even if unintentionally.

  • Zuckerberg quickly clarified his statement at the time, emailing Swisher that "I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that."
  • "Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue — but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services."

Details: Starting today, if people search for the Holocaust on Facebook, the company will start directing them to authoritative sources to get accurate information.

  • In a blog post explaining the policy, Facebook's VP of content policy Monika Bickert says, "Enforcement of these policies cannot happen overnight."
  • "There is a range of content that can violate these policies, and it will take some time to train our reviewers and systems on enforcement," she writes. "We are grateful to many partners for their input and candor as we work to keep our platform safe."
  • The company's policies already ban content that praises hate crimes or mass murder, including the Holocaust.

The big picture: Zuckerberg cites rising anti-Semitism as a reason for implementing this policy.

  • "I've struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust."
  • "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."
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