Tech & Terrorism: Facebook Updates Hate Speech Policy To Ban Content Denying Or Distorting The Holocaust

The Latest Reactive Policy Change Follows Growing Pressure From Advocacy Groups

(New York, N.Y.) – On Monday, Facebook updated its hate speech policy to ban content that “denies or distorts” information about the Holocaust. The company claimed that its latest policy change “is supported by the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people.” Facebook’s latest policy change follows mounting pressure from advocacy groups’ efforts to hold Facebook accountable for failing to enforce their Community Standards regarding hate speech on its platforms. This summer, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany led a campaign to directly call on CEO Mark Zuckerberg to remove Holocaust denial posts from its sites. The #NoDenyingIt campaign encouraged Holocaust survivors to post a video message addressing Zuckerberg on Facebook and on Facebook-owned Instagram to ban content denying the Holocaust on its platforms.

The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has previously documented instances of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial on Instagram. In January, an anti-Semitic account was discovered that advocated for violence against Jews and posted content that denied the horrific events of the Holocaust. At the time of the its discovery, the account had more than 1,400 followers and had cumulatively posted photos of approximately 440 individuals. In April, additional neo-Nazi Instagram accounts were found that included stores selling anti-Semitic and Nazi themed clothing, accounts calling for acts of violence, and an account belonging to a New England based neo-Nazi gang.

Facebook has a dubious track record with moderating content that denies the Holocaust and incites violence against Jews. In 2018, The Times reported on Facebook’s negligence in allowing posts that called the Holocaust a lie and described Jews as “barbaric and unsanitary” to remain on its platform even after the content was reported. When speaking to The Times on Facebook’s failed hate speech content moderation policies, CEP’s Executive Director David Ibsen said, “Facebook not only allows Holocaust deniers and antisemitism to continue to be freely available online but Mr. Zuckerberg is using freedom of expression as his excuse. These antisemitic views are against Facebook’s own community guidelines. We urge Facebook to take meaningful and urgent action to ensure their platform is not used for encouraging violent and illegal activity like this.”

To read CEP’s resource, Tracking Facebook’s Policy Changes, please click here.

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