- Facebook announced Monday it was changing its hate speech policy to “prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.”
- The company has faced criticism for more than a decade over its refusal to moderate anti-Semitic content that distorts or denies the Holocaust, when Nazis and their allies systematically killed 6 million Jews, happened.
- In the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election, Facebook has attempted to mitigate criticism that it fails to prevent the spread of dangerous conspiracy theories and disinformation on its platform. Just last week, Facebook said it banned QAnon accounts across its platforms.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Facebook has banned Holocaust-denial content from the platform after years of criticism over its refusal to take action against such anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Facebook announced Monday it was updating its hate speech policy to “prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.”
The policy change marks an abrupt about-face on Facebook’s refusal, for more than a decade, to remove content from its platform that denies the existence of the Holocaust and the genocide of millions of Jews and other minority groups. The platform has faced pressure from human rights and civil rights groups to take a stricter stance against such content, but Facebook has maintained that the “mere statement” of Holocaust denial doesn’t violate policies.
“I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Recode in July 2018. “But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.”
In the meantime, it appears that Holocaust-denial content on Facebook has continued to not just exist, but flourish. A recent study, published in August by
The friction shows the difficulties the government faces in translating its national-security agenda into the real world, where influential industries have developed deep ties to China over many years.
Congress and the Trump administration say the measures are necessary to lessen U.S. reliance on a strategic rival that could sabotage, hack or withhold important technology. Some U.S. companies argue that the restrictions will cost tens of billions of dollars and in some cases won’t improve national security.
“We are broadly supportive of the spirit” of a law imposing new restrictions for federal contractors, Wesley Hallman, head of strategy and policy at the National Defense Industrial Association, said in an interview, adding that “some suspicion of Chinese components” is warranted.
But “if you were to apply this law very broadly in the way it is written,” he said, “just about all contractors doing work with the federal government, they would have to stop.”
China hawks in Congress have raised alarms about the corporate pushback, accusing companies of putting profits before national security.
“Tech insiders are trying to gut provisions of the defense funding bill that would restrict use of Chinese tech products. Senate negotiators, don’t give in! This is not the time to go soft on #China,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tweeted Oct. 1.
“Under no circumstances should we weaken or delay implementation of our laws banning the U.S. federal government and government contractors from using Huawei equipment,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) tweeted this summer, a position his office said he maintains. “That would be a gift to the Chinese Communist Party.”
The new restrictions have been proposed or enacted in a mix of bills, laws and executive-branch actions affecting a range of industries.
Prohibitions adopted with bipartisan support in an annual defense-spending law are drawing particular industry ire.
It’s Facebook’s latest effort to stamp out anti-Semitism. The company recently banned “stereotypes about the collective power of Jews that often depicts them running the world or its major institutions,” as Bickert pointed out.
Facebook has been working with global and local groups such as the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee for several years to better understand how hatred is conveyed online. The company has also collaborated with organizations that tackle anti-Semitism, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
It’ll take some time before Facebook can effectively police this ban, Bickert wrote. The company will need to train its content reviewers and systems on how to tackle such content, as there’s a wide range of material that would violate the rules. Later this year, Facebook will start directing people who search for terms linked to Holocaust denial or the atrocity in general to “credible information” from third-party sources.
Facebook, which banned the QAnon conspiracy theory from its platform last week, has recently enacted more measures to reduce the spread of hate speech and other harmful content. Earlier this year, several major advertisers withheld ads or at least threatened to in order to pressure Facebook into taking more action.
Facebook has banned the U.S. marketing firm that was behind a campaign to disseminate deceptive political content on behalf of Turning Point USA, a political advocacy group for young conservatives with ties to President Donald Trump.
Rally Forge employed people who used use fake names and profile pictures while commenting on content posted by other users or mainstream media outlets, Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said Thursday. The firm did that work on behalf of Turning Point USA and Inclusive Conservation Group, an environmental advocacy organization.
“They did that seemingly to create the perception of widespread support of their narratives by leaving comments on posts by media entities and public figures,” Gleicher said. He noted that the accounts used “thinly veiled personas,” such as tweaking real people’s names, to bypass Facebook’s filters.
Gleicher said Facebook is not penalizing Turning Point or Inclusive Conservation Group, though it’s still investigating whether other deceptive tactics were deployed.
“We have to take action based on evidence that we see on our platform and that we can clearly articulate and can describe and provide if needed,” Gleicher said.
He also repeated Facebook’s call for legislation and regulation to provide greater clarity on allowed online advocacy — and the company outlined broad suggestions for rules to mitigate influence operations, including greater transparency from platforms and sanctions on bad actors.
“There are broader questions about what constitutes acceptable political advocacy versus deception and where those lines should be drawn,” Gleicher said. “Those sorts of questions are exactly the reason why tackling influence operations is a whole of society challenge.”
More on the campaign: Facebook said it removed 200 Facebook accounts, 55 pages and 76 Instagram accounts tied to Rally Forge. Those accounts also spent just shy of $1 million on advertising, a figure that Gleicher
Facebook said Tuesday that it is banning all QAnon accounts from its platforms, a significant escalation over its previous actions and one of the broadest rules the social media giant has put in place in its history.
Facebook said the change is an update on the policy it created in August that initially only removed accounts related to the QAnon conspiracy theory that discussed violence, which resulted in the termination of 1,500 pages, groups and profiles.
A company spokesperson said the enforcement, which started Tuesday, will “bring to parity what we’ve been doing on other pieces of policy with regard to militarized social movements,” such as militia and terror groups that repeatedly call for violence.
“Starting today, we will remove Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts for representing QAnon. We’re starting to enforce this updated policy today and are removing content accordingly, but this work will take time and will continue in the coming days and weeks,” Facebook wrote in a press release. “Our Dangerous Organizations Operations team will continue to enforce this policy and proactively detect content for removal instead of relying on user reports.”
The spokesperson said the company believed it needed to limit the “ability of QAnon and Militarized Social Movements to operate and organize on our platform.”
QAnon is a conspiracy theory that grew out of the fringes of the internet and posits that high-profile Democrats and Hollywood celebrities are members of a child-eating cabal that is being secretly taken down by President Donald Trump, and that members of this fictitious cabal will soon be marched to their execution. The conspiracy theory relies on posts from Q, an anonymous user of the extremist message board 8kun, which was formerly called 8chan, who has been wrongly predicting the roundup of prominent Democrats since October 2017.