FACEBOOK surprised the world this week when it announced it was updating its hate speech policy to ban Holocaust denial.
One would think denying or distorting the greatest atrocities ever committed by humankind would automatically be banned on a website with more than two billion users.
But apparently not.
Two years ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended his site allowing Holocaust denialism. “I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” he said in an interview.
“I find that deeply offensive. 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. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”
Those comments sparked a backlash across the world, including in Australia, where Holocaust survivors and community leaders launched a campaign calling on the social media giant to kick Holocaust deniers out of the platform.
It took two years too long, but this week, Zuckerberg and Facebook are to be commended for taking the right course of action and barring any content that claims the Holocaust didn’t happen.
The Australian Jewish community knows too well the pain and suffering the Jewish people endured at the hands of the Nazis. After all, our community is home to a large number of Shoah survivors and descendants, many of whom volunteer at our local museums to ensure the next generation learn the lessons of the past.
We also know too well what it’s like to have Holocaust denialism splashed in front of our eyes.
In Melbourne last year, a Jewish-owned cafe had the words “The Holocaust is a lie” scrawled on its fence.
That’s not to mention the barrage of swastikas and antisemitic graffiti plastered across our streets, physical and verbal attacks on our students, Nazi items going under the hammer on a weekly basis … the list goes on.
And with antisemitism on the rise globally, it is incumbent on major companies to ensure they’re part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Facebook took a giant step forward this week in announcing its new policy. We hope to see real change as a result.