Facebook will ban posts that deny or distort the Holocaust and will start directing people to authoritative sources if they search for information about the Nazi genocide, the company's CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Monday.
The new policy is the latest attempt by the company to take action against conspiracy theories and misinformation ahead of the U.S. presidential election.
Zuckerberg said in a blog post Monday 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.”
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 New York-based 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.
Zuckerberg raised the ire of the Claims Conference and others with comments in 2018 to the tech website Recode, saying 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 himself, 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.”
Several Holocaust denial groups have been identified on Facebook by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League, some hidden and most private.
On one, “Real World War 2 History,” administrators are clearly aware of the fine line between what is and isn’t allowed, listing among its rules that members must “avoid posts that feature grotesque cartoons that FB censors can construe as racist or hateful.”
Another page, the “Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust,” features regular posts of revisionist videos, including one from February in which the commentator says the Zyklon B gas used to kill Jews in Nazi death camps was actually employed to kill the lice that spread typhus, claiming “this chemical was used to improve the inmates’ health and reduce, not increase, camp mortality.”
The move to ban Holocaust denial quickly won praise from Jewish groups and individuals such as the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
“Facebook’s decision to ban Holocaust denial and distortion postings is profoundly significant,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “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. 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 antisemites to peddle their grotesque manipulation of history.”
Yesh Atid-Telem Chairman and opposition leader Yair Lapid took to Twitter to praise the move.
"Congratulations to Facebook on the right decision," Lapid wrote. "Holocaust denial is an expression of anti-Semitism of the lowest kind that needs to pass from the world and the web."