Holocaust denial should not be banned on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has said.
Although he described such posts as “deeply offensive”, the social network chief executive said that he does not think users sharing Holocaust denial material are “intentionally getting it wrong”.
Following outcry from groups including the Anti-Defamation League, Mr Zuckerberg subsequently clarified that he “absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny [the Holocaust]”.
He explained: “Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue – but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services.”
Mr Zuckerberg had made the comments in an interview with the technology news site Recode.
We see Pages on both the left and the right pumping out what they consider opinion or analysis – but others call fake news. We believe banning these Pages would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech.
— Facebook (@facebook) July 12, 2018
It follows controversial statements from the company’s official account on Twitter regarding conspiracy theory organisation Infowars, with Facebook arguing that banning fake news sites is not productive.
Facebook’s tweets said: “We see Pages on both the left and the right pumping out what they consider opinion or analysis – but others call fake news.
“We believe banning these Pages would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech.”
The Anti-Defamation League argued that Facebook had a “moral and ethical obligation” to not allow Holocaust denial on the site.
Facebook’s chief executive explained the company’s approach to false material: “If something is spreading and is rated false by fact checkers, it would lose the vast majority of its distribution in News Feed.
“And of course if a post crossed the line into advocating for violence or hate against a particular group, it would be removed.
“These issues are very challenging but I believe that often the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech.”
Moderation on Facebook has proven a controversial topic as the social media giant attempts to apply global standards across the multiple jurisdictions that its users are based in.
Earlier this month, the company’s internal tools for flagging abusive content mistook excerpts of the US Declaration of Independence for hate speech, rather than a historical document.
The social media company partners with third-party fact-checkers in a number of countries who can rate the validity of stories that appear in news feeds.
Because Facebook is used to communicate by billions of people around the world, the company assessed that its policies have a significant impact on the freedom of speech.
Internal documents leaked last year revealed that Facebook hesitates before deleting images and videos of hate speech and other upsetting material due to fears of being accused of censorship.
At the time, Monika Bickert, the head of global policy management at Facebook, said: “We work hard to make Facebook as safe as possible while enabling free speech.
“We’re going to make it simpler to report problems to us, faster for our reviewers to determine which posts violate our standards and easier for them to contact law enforcement if someone needs help.”