On Monday, Facebook confirmed that they will be striking down posts that contain Holocaust denial conspiracy theories. This reverses an early decision by Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO, where he stated that the content would stay up.
Two years ago, Zuckerberg told news outlets that, while he found such posts deeply offensive, he didn’t see it as Facebook’s place to act as the “arbiter of truth” on the matter.
However, pressure from critics was severe. Many noted that Facebook need not be arbiter of truth: the truth about the Holocaust is public historical record. The atrocities committed by the Third Reich are well-documented and historians are in agreement about the era.
Firsthand witnesses to the events are still alive to this day, and their recollections are corroborated by contemporary first-hand sources such as photographic evidence and military documentation.
In a post on Monday, Zuckerberg stated that his thinking on the matter has “evolved” in light of current events. Data shows an alarming number of young people are uneducated or undereducated about the Holocaust, and Holocaust denial is more common now than in prior years.
Further, violence against Jewish people is once again on the rise, leading to increased calls for social media platforms to crack down on hate 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,” Zuckerberg wrote in the post. “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.”
The social media site will now be removing Holocaust denial posts from the platform. Further, they’ve stated that they have plans to direct users who search for terms relating to the Holocaust to credible sources on historical, educational sites. Monika Bickert, head of content policy, said it may take “some time” to implement this redirection change, however.
The social media site has faced mounting pressure from outside groups to crack down on hate speech. Further, misinformation relating to voting and other current events often draws the ire of watchdog groups when the site allows such posts to circulate widely.
While Zuckerberg’s earlier stance on these topics was to employ a hands-off attitude, it seems he’s now changing his tune. Whether that’s due to a change of heart or simply the increased pressure from outside organizations is unclear.