Facebook, Instagram to ban conspiracy theories on Jews ‘controlling the world’

After ads boycott spearheaded by human rights groups, social media giant says it is making progress in catching hate speech, including anti-Semitism

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the F8 Facebook Developers conference on May 1, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, via JTA)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the F8 Facebook Developers conference on May 1, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, via JTA)

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook and Instagram are for the first time to explicitly ban conspiracy theories about Jewish people “controlling the world,” as part of an update to its content policies announced by the company on Tuesday.

The ban will cover “certain kinds of implicit hate speech” and will also include content depicting blackface, it said.

The announcement came after a monthlong boycott of advertising on Facebook spearheaded by a coalition of civil rights groups led by the Anti-Defamation League. More than 1,000 companies participated in the boycott, which was meant to protest Facebook’s lack of action against hate speech.

“The failure explicitly to count antisemitic conspiracy theories as a form of hate speech was highlighted in July,” the Guardian noted Wednesday, “when Wiley, the British rapper and DJ, posted a series of antisemitic comments on his Instagram account, after a similar rant on Twitter. The posts, which were widely condemned, initially led to a seven-day suspension from Instagram, with his account being fully deleted only five days later.”

In an announcement Tuesday issued by Guy Rosen, the social media platform’s vice president of integrity, Facebook said it would ban posts about Jews controlling the world, as well as those containing blackface. Rosen also wrote that Facebook has removed 23 “banned organizations” from the platform since October, half of which were white supremacist.

Facebook also announced the launch of a Diversity Advisory Council, but did not provide details on what the council would address.

Responding to the announcement, an ADL spokesperson called the changes “welcome yet overdue.”

“It’s distressing that it took this long for the platform to crack down on these particular forms of hate, when it’s quite obvious they should not have been allowed to proliferate in the first place,” the ADL statement said. “It’s equally as disturbing that Facebook still doesn’t view Holocaust denial as violative of their terms of service.”

Facebook also reported progress in catching abusive content on the platform as it relied more on automated systems during the pandemic.

Facebook said its took action on 22.5 million pieces of content deemed hateful on the Facebook and Instagram platforms in the second quarter of this year, according to the internet giant’s latest enforcement report.

“Despite the impact of COVID-19, improvements to our technology enabled us to take action on more content in some areas,” the report stated.

Some of the improvement was credited to expanding automated detection to more languages including Spanish and Burmese, and to better understanding posts in English.

Automated detection of hate speech at Instagram rose to 84 percent, with the image-centric social network taking action on a total of 3.3 million pieces of content in the second quarter, according to the report.

“We’ve made progress in combating hate on our apps, but we know we have more to do to ensure everyone feels comfortable using our services,” the report stated.

An Instagram Equity Team and a Facebook Inclusive Product Council were created to help make sure cultural fairness is built into products, according to the report.

Facebook also said it is launching a Diversity Advisory Council to provide input on topics and issues.

Progress was also reported in automatically detecting terrorism content, with Facebook taking action on 8.7 million pieces of such content in the second quarter.

Facebook remains under pressure to fight abusive and deceitful content on its platform — amid a boycott by advertisers — while fending off accusations it unfairly stifles politically conservative voices.

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