| USA TODAY
Facebook bans Holocaust denial, distortion posts
Facebook is banning posts that deny or distort the Holocaust and will start directing people to authoritative sources if they search for information about the Nazi genocide. (Oct. 12)
Holocaust denial content remains on Facebook three months after pledging to ban all content that “denies or distorts the Holocaust.”
That’s according to a new report from the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), which gave Facebook a “D” for its efforts.
ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the report released Wednesday on Holocaust Remembrance Day shows that Facebook and other major social media platforms are “still struggling to address anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial effectively.”
Among the pieces of content cited by the ADL that Facebook did not take down: a post promoting an anti-Semitic video that claims to expose “lies” about the Holocaust and a private Facebook group dedicated to “Holocaust Revisionism.”
“We don’t agree – we’ve made major progress in fighting Holocaust denial on Facebook by implementing a new policy prohibiting it and enforcing against these hateful lies in every country around the world,” Facebook spokesperson Dani Lever told USA TODAY. “We are reviewing the content mentioned in this report and will continue working to keep Holocaust denial off of our platform.”
Separately, Facebook told USA TODAY that it will now direct people who search for information about the Holocaust to authoritative sources.
“Anyone who searches on Facebook for terms associated with either the Holocaust or Holocaust denial, will see a message from Facebook encouraging them to connect with credible information about the Holocaust off Facebook,” Guy Rosen, vice president of integrity, said in a blog post.
Facebook was slow to crack down on Holocaust denial
Mainstream social media, which were slow to crack down on Holocaust denial, have been blamed for handing hate groups powerful megaphones to spread baseless and harmful conspiracy theories that distort the public understanding of the Nazi genocide that killed 6 million Jews.
In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg drew a sharp backlash when he defended the rights of Holocaust deniers to air their views on Facebook, saying his company would not remove content that was factually inaccurate even it was personally offensive to him.
After nearly a decade of campaigning by the ADL and personal pleas from Holocaust survivors, Facebook reversed that stance in October, saying it would now treat Holocaust denial as hate speech instead of misinformation.
Facebook’s vice president of content policy Monika Bickert cited rising anti-Semitism and “the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust,” especially among young people, for the policy change.
Facebook removed large Holocaust denial groups from the platform. Efforts to remove Facebook groups denying the Holocaust and calling it a “Holohoax” date back as far as 2009. At the same time, Facebook also banned anti-Semitic stereotypes.
When Facebook began restricting more content, some Holocaust deniers, who use hashtags such as #HolocaustNeverHappened and #HolocaustIsALie, moved to less restrictive social media platforms.
“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 in a Facebook post at the time, acknowledging the real-world harms caused by hate spreading on his platforms.
“Drawing the right lines between what is and isn’t acceptable speech isn’t straightforward,” said Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, “but with the current state of the world, I believe this is the right balance.”
The ADL, which for nearly a decade publicly called on Facebook to take down content that denies the Holocaust, says Facebook either refused to remove the majority of content flagged by anonymous users or did not respond.
Twitter, YouTube, Roblox and TikTok gets “Cs” in ADL report
The ADL report card found that Twitch was the most responsive platform with the most robust policies to address Holocaust denial, followed by Twitter, Google’s YouTube, Roblox and TikTok, each of whom got “Cs” for their efforts.
Facebook’s app Instagram, Discord, Reddit and Steam earned “Ds.” The ADL did not review alternative social media platforms such as Gab and Parler, which experienced a surge of new users as mainstream social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter cracked down on baseless claims of election fraud.
The social media platforms surveyed by the ADL were graded based on how comprehensive their policies are in addressing Holocaust denial, how such content appears and how responsive each was in dealing with the content once it was flagged.
Twitter and Twitch were the only platforms in the study who took immediate action when Holocaust denial content was reported to them by anonymous users, the ADL said. Other platforms included in the study either maintained that the content did not violate their policies or did not respond.
“This is truly shameful at a time when anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are spreading globally, some outrageously based on the big lie that the Holocaust never happened,” Greenblatt said.