Facebook Decision to Ban Holocaust Denial Welcomed by Jewish Groups
In a major reversal of existing policy, social media giant Facebook announced on Monday that it was banning posts that deny or distort the Holocaust, adding that users would be directed to authoritative sources if they search for information about the Nazi genocide.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the shift in a blog post on Monday.
“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 antisemitic violence, as have our wider policies on hate speech.”
Jewish groups welcomed the Facebook announcement.
“Today’s announcement sends a strong message that Facebook will not allow its platform to be misused to promote hate,” the World Jewish Congress (WJC) said in a statement. “By taking the critical step to remove Holocaust denial content, Facebook is showing that it recognizes Holocaust denial for what it truly is — a form of antisemitism and therefore hate speech.”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) observed in its own statement that 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.”
Continued the AJC: “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.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) pointed to the wider context of Facebook’s announcement.
“Just recently, the Iranian regime doubled down on its Jew-hatred by launching its third annual Holocaust Denial Cartoon contest; a principal in Florida who refuses to acknowledge the Holocaust as historic fact was rehired by a school board; and a poll indicates that most young Americans know virtually nothing about history’s worst crime,” its statement said. “The SWC therefore commends Facebook for redirecting anyone seeking to question or deny the Nazi Holocaust to reliable sources online, which will educate them to the truth.”
Zuckerberg had angered US Jewish organizations in a 2018 interview in which he said that that posts on Facebook denying the Holocaust would not necessarily be removed. 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.”
Chairman Arthur Stark, CEO William Daroff, and Vice Chair Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, commented, “This decision is a significant blow to the those who traffic in antisemitism, and it will reduce the proliferation of harmful and inciting lies on the world’s largest social media platform.”
“At a time when there is an alarming rise in antisemitism in America and around the globe, voices promoting it through denial and distortion of the Holocaust must not be given the opportunity to disseminate their hateful messages,” they asserted. “There should be no place for any form of racism or bigotry on social media.”
“We thank Facebook for taking this critical step, and we hope to see decision makers at other platforms follow its example by banning content that denies or distorts the Holocaust,” they said.