Earlier this week, Facebook updated its hate speech policy to include a ban on any content that “denies or distorts the Holocaust,” reversing the company’s original stance.
In a statement announcing the change on Monday, Facebook explained that the change was “supported by the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people.”
Facebook credited Holocaust research and remembrance institutions like Yad Vashem with shedding light on the importance of Holocaust education in combatting anti-Semitism. The statement went on to cite a recent survey that found nearly 25 percent of adults in the U.S. aged 18-39 believed the Holocaust was a myth, was exaggerated or they weren’t sure.
“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 said in a Facebook post. “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.”
Zuckerberg had defended the existence of Holocaust denial content on Facebook during a podcast interview in 2018, saying the platform had to allow for the chance that users are making unintentional mistakes. Of users who shared Holocaust denial content, Zuckerberg added, “I don’t think they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”
Facebook’s statement this week also said it’s been working with global communities in an effort to better understand how hatred like anti-Semitism is expressed online. They have worked with the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, Community Security Trust and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“Enforcement of these policies cannot happen overnight,” Facebook’s statement said. “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. We are grateful to many partners for their input and candor as we work to keep our platform safe.”
Despite Facebook’s declaration against hate speech and misinformation, Zuckerberg has denounced other platforms that restrict speech and has said Facebook should not be an arbiter of truth. In May, Zuckerberg criticized Twitter’s decision to fact-check one of President Trump’s tweets.
Earlier this year, Facebook faced their criticism of their own after removing a post by President Trump alleging COVID-19 is less deadly than the seasonal flu.