Facebook is banning any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust from its platform, a policy reversal for the social media network that has long faced pressure to remove content denying the killing of 6 million Jews by the Nazis.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the change saying users that search for terms associated with the Holocaust will be directed to credible information from authoritative sources.
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“I’ve struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust,” Zuckerberg 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,” he said. “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.”
The social media giant previously only removed posts that praised the Holocaust.
In a blog post Monday, Facebook said the decision was made due to the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism around the world and the “alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust.”
The company pointed to a recent survey of adults in the U.S. aged 18-39 that found nearly a quarter said they believed the Holocaust was a myth or that it had been exaggerated.
Zuckerberg has long pushed back against the social media site becoming an arbiter of free speech amid criticism that Facebook has allowed hate speech and misinformation to flow throughout the platform.
In 2018, he said that he thought Holocaust denial was abhorrent but didn’t think it should be removed from the platform.
“I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong,” he told Vox’s Recode in 2018.
Facebook more recently has become proactive about removing some content, including banning posts related to the QAnon conspiracy.
The move by Facebook was welcomed by advocacy groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that have been calling on Facebook to change its policy to classify Holocaust denial on its platform as a form of hate speech since 2011.
“As Facebook finally decides to take a stance against Holocaust denial and distortion, they claim it is because of their work with the Jewish community over the past year,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, said in a statement.
“We question this claim because if they had wanted to support the Jewish community, this change could have been implemented at any point in the last nine years,” he said.
Yael Eisenstat, the former head of global elections integrity for political ads at Facebook, told TIME that the move was a step in the right direction, but said Zuckerberg seems to ignore why the social media site is so ripe for spreading hate speech.
She said if the company does not carry out a “complete retooling” of how its business model works then the recent move to ban hate speech will be “another whack-a-mole content moderation plan without changing any of the core mechanisms that encourage and amplify this kind of behavior.”
“Facebook could, if they wanted to, fix some of this,” Eisenstat said in an August Ted Talk.
“They could stop amplifying and recommending the conspiracy theorists, the hate groups, the purveyors of disinformation and, yes, in some cases even our president,” she said. “They could retrain their algorithms to focus on a metric other than engagement, and they could build in guardrails to stop certain content from going viral before being reviewed.”
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