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Facebook is finally banning all Holocaust denial content from the platform

What took so long?

facebook's mark zuckerberg
Image: KnowTechie

While Facebook may be embroiled in plenty of political scandals right now, it’s great to see some good news come from its corner for once. In an update to their hate speech policy, the social media giant has explicitly banned any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust. Just 16 years after the platform’s launch.

It’s a massive shift in its previous stance on the subject. In 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Recode that “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.”

Now, though, not only has Facebook’s stance been addressed, but Zuckerberg himself has also made a post commenting on the policy change.

Today we're updating our hate speech policy to ban Holocaust denial.We've long taken down posts that praise hate…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, October 12, 2020

It’s the newest in a list of subjects that are being banned from the site. Misinformation relating to COVID-19 and QAnon has already been banned over the summer. After almost a year of work, it was also announced in August that any anti-Semitic stereotypes depicting Jews running the world would be banned.

However, some critics have questioned the timing and intentions of the move. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a statement saying, “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. 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.”

The ADL’s viewpoint is an understandable one. After all, Facebook has often stayed away from conspiracy theories and hate speech over the years. Why would they make such sudden and sweeping changes to their culture? But in a world where 19% of New York millennials believe Jews caused the Holocaust, you have to wonder why it’s taken so long to take action.

Stopping the spread of hate?

facebook on smartphone with facebook text in background

Image: Medium

The shift in culture also ignores the part that Facebook has played in allowing conspiracy theories and hate speech to spread in the first place. If they’d banned such offensive ideas from the outset, then arguably this wouldn’t be as big of a problem. And these efforts may not even rip the problem out at the root in the first place.

Yael Eisenstat, Facebook’s former head of global elections integrity for political ads, who left the company in 2018, told TIME that “[Zuckerberg] seems to ignore why Facebook is so ripe for spreading hate speech and disinformation to begin with.” She went on to say, “If he does not accompany this decision with what so many have been calling for, 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.”

Above all else, it’s undeniable that this change is a massive victory for the Jewish community. Anti-Semitic commentary has plagued Facebook for years, and it shows a real change to the mindset of such a far-reaching company. While the original post does admit that “enforcement of these policies cannot happen overnight,” it does seem that – for once – an actual effort is being made on their part.

What do you think? Surprised to see Facebook do this or are you surprised it took this long? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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