Oct. 12 (UPI) — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Monday that the company will update its hate speech policy to ban Holocaust denial.
Zuckerberg made the announcement in a Facebook post.
“We’ve taken down posts that praise hate crimes or mass murder, including the Holocaust. But with rising anti-Semitism, we’re expanding our policy to prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust as well,” the post read. “If people search for the Holocaust on Facebook, we’ll start directing you to authoritative sources to get accurate information.”
The update reverses Facebook’s earlier policy on the issue.
In 2018, Zuckerberg said in a Recode Decode podcast interview that the social media company does not want to ban Holocaust denial posts because people should be able to make unintentional mistakes.
“I don’t think they’re intentionally getting it wrong,” Zuckerberg said on the podcast at the time.
Facebook Vice President of Content Policy Monika Bickert released a statement on the policy change.
“Today’s announcement marks another step in our effort to fight hate on our services,” Bickert said in the statement. “Our decision is supported by the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people. According to a recent survey of adults in the US aged 18-39, almost a quarter said they believed the Holocaust was a myth, that it had been exaggerated or they weren’t sure.”
Bickert added enforcement of the updated policy wouldn’t happen overnight since it takes time “to train our reviewers and systems on enforcement.”
Bickert also said that online attacks against many groups are increasing worldwide, according to organizations that study trends in hate speech, and that Facebook has taken several steps to remove such content.
Among those steps, Facebook has banned more than 250 white supremacist organizations
Over the past several weeks, there has been an increasing clamour for Facebook to place its India public policy head, Ankhi Das, on leave as the company continues with an audit of its India operations.
The impetus for the audit was an article written by the Wall Street Journal in mid-August. In that piece, WSJ reported that Das had resisted against taking down inflammatory content that eventually sparked rioting in the capital city of Delhi as it was posted by members of the nationalist BJP party.
The riots left over fifty dead, most of whom were Muslims. It also led to many of these Muslims’ homes being torched.
“The company’s top public-policy executive in the country, Ankhi Das, opposed applying the hate-speech rules to [T Raja] Singh and at least three other Hindu nationalist individuals and groups flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence,” WSJ reported.
These inflammatory posts were reportedly only taken down months after the riots had already occured, and only when the paper approached the company for a statement.
One of the BJP politicians, Raja Singh, reportedly said that Rohingya Muslim refugees should be “shot”, and had labelled Indian Muslims as traitors while also threatening to destroy their mosques. Singh, who has enshrined a reputation for these kinds of comments, has since denied these allegations and claimed his account was hacked.
The audit was initiated when a group of 54 retired civil servants wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the WSJ revelation. This call for an audit was then reiterated by a jointly-written letter to Facebook by global civil rights organisations such as the Southern Law Poverty Center, Muslim Advocates, and other organisations in countries such as the UK, US, and New Zealand.
“The audit must be removed entirely from the influence of the India