Facebook Backtracks, Says It Will Ban Holocaust Denial on Platform

October 12, 2020 Updated: October 12, 2020

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Oct. 12 that the social media platform will remove content that “denies or distorts the Holocaust,” departing from previous policy that allows the content to remain.

Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page that after struggling for a long time to find the “right balance” between freedom of expression and “the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust,” his thinking has “evolved” because data shows an increase in anti-Semitic violence.

“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,” he wrote, adding that users will now be directed to outside “authoritative sources” that provide “accurate information” when they search subjects related to the Holocaust on Facebook.

In the announcement of the updated hate speech policies, Facebook stated that the decision is supported by a “well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people.”

Epoch Times Photo
The entrance to the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau with the lettering ‘Arbeit macht frei’ (‘Work makes you free’) is pictured in Oswiecim, Poland, on Jan. 25, 2015. (Joël Saget /AFP via Getty Images)

According to a recent survey commissioned by Claims Conference, a New York-based organization seeking compensation for Jewish victims of the Holocaust, 63 percent of millennial and Gen Z adults surveyed didn’t know that 6 million Jews were systematically killed under the Nazi regime. Another 23 percent believed the Holocaust was either a myth or has been exaggerated. Eleven percent thought the Jews were responsible for their own genocide, and 10 percent said it actually never happened.

The Claims Conference on Oct. 12 praised the tech giant’s change of course.

“It’s a very important statement and it’s a building block toward ensuring that this sort of anti-Semitism is not amplified,” Greg Schneider, the organization’s executive vice president, said in a press release.

In 2018, Zuckerberg said he believed Holocaust deniers on Facebook weren’t “intentionally getting it wrong,” and that as long as posts weren’t calling for harm or violence, they should be protected even though many other users find them offensive. He later clarified in an interview with the Recode Decode podcast that while he personally found Holocaust denial “deeply offensive” and had no intention to defend it, he believed that simply having it removed wasn’t the best approach.

“Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue—but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services,” Zuckerberg said at that time. “These issues are very challenging but I believe that often the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech.”