Face­book bans Holo­caust de­nial, dis­tor­tion posts

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - NEWS - BY MATT O’BRIEN

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.

Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg an­nounced the new pol­icy Mon­day, the lat­est at­tempt by the com­pany to take ac­tion against con­spir­acy the­o­ries and mis­in­for­ma­tion ahead of the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion three weeks away.

The de­ci­sion comes amid a push by Holo­caust sur­vivors around the world who lent their voices to a cam­paign tar­get­ing Zucker­berg be­gin­ning this sum­mer, urg­ing him to take ac­tion to re­move Holo­caust de­nial posts from the so­cial me­dia site.

Co­or­di­nated by the Con­fer­ence on Jewish Ma­te­rial Claims Against Ger­many, the # NoDeny­ingIt cam­paign used Face­book it­self to make the sur­vivors’ en­treaties to Zucker­berg heard, post­ing one video per day urg­ing him to re­move Holo­caust-deny­ing groups, pages and posts as hate speech.

Face­book said Mon­day

that the new pol­icy “is sup­ported by the well- doc­u­mented rise in anti- Semitism glob­ally and the alarm­ing level of ig­no­rance about the Holo­caust, es­pe­cially among young peo­ple.” Sur­veys have shown some younger Amer­i­cans be­lieve the Holo­caust was a myth or has been ex­ag­ger­ated.

The Anti- Defama­tion League has re­ported that in­ci­dents of white su­prem­a­cist pro­pa­ganda dis­trib­uted across the U.S. jumped by more than 120% be­tween 2018 and last year. The group also said this sum­mer it found a num­ber of Holo­caust de­nial groups on Face­book, some hid­den and most pri­vate.

Tech com­pa­nies be­gan promis­ing to take a firmer stand against ac­counts used to pro­mote hate and vi­o­lence af­ter a 2017 rally in Char­lottesvill­e, Virginia, where a self-de­scribed white su­prem­a­cist drove into a crowd of coun­ter­protesters. Yet Face­book and other com­pa­nies have been slower to re­spond to posts that am­plify false in­for­ma­tion, but don’t pose an im­me­di­ate threat of vi­o­lence or other phys­i­cal harm.

Zucker­berg said in a blog post Mon­day that he be­lieves the new pol­icy strikes the “right bal­ance” in drawing the lines be­tween what is and isn’t ac­cept­able speech.

“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 anti-Semitic vi­o­lence, as have our wider poli­cies on hate speech.”

Zucker­berg had raised the ire of the Claims Con­fer­ence, based in New York, and oth­ers with com­ments in 2018 to the tech web­site Re­code that posts deny­ing the Nazi an­ni­hi­la­tion of 6 mil­lion Jews would not nec­es­sar­ily be re­moved. He said he did not think Holo­caust de­niers were “in­ten­tion­ally” get­ting it wrong, and that as long as posts were not call­ing for harm or vi­o­lence, even of­fen­sive con­tent should be pro­tected.

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.”

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