- In October, Facebook announced changes to its hate speech policy and insituted a ban on posts denying the Holocaust.
- However, the ban did not include the denial of other genocides, such as the Rwandan or Armenian genocides.
- Now, advocates are calling for Facebook to ban posts denying the Armenian genocide, too.
- From 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire killed 1.5 million Armenians and expelled another half a million. Turkey still falsely claims that the genocide never happened.
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Anti-hate advocates are calling on Facebook to ban posts denying the Armenian genocide, which led to the deaths of over 1.5 million ethnic Armenians, saying the social media giant’s policy on hate speech fails to address crimes against humanity.
The call to action follows Facebook’s October announcement that it would ban posts denying the Holocaust, which came after pressure from human rights groups, Holocaust survivors, and a 500-plus company ad boycott. However, the change did not include the denial of other genocides, such as the Rwandan and Armenian genocides, Bloomberg reported.
“They have an obligation to responsibly address all genocide,” said Arda Haratunian, board member for the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), the largest non-profit dedicated to the international Armenian community. “How could you not apply the same rules across crimes against humanity?”
Now, voices from across the Armenian diaspora and anti-hate groups are calling for the company to change its policy. In November, the Armenian Bar Association penned a letter to Facebook and Twitter (which banned posts denying the Holocaust in the days after Facebook did), proposing that they expand their ban to posts denying the Armenian genocide, too.
“It made us hopeful, because it was a sign that Facebook is taking steps towards fixing its speech problem,” said Lana Akopyan, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property and technology, and member of the Armenian Bar Association’s social media task force. The Armenian Bar Association has yet to receive a response from either company, Akopyan told Business Insider.
The calls to expand hate speech policies come as social media platforms face a wider reckoning on how they regulate speech. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have criticized section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a legal provision that shields internet companies from lawsuits over content posted on their sites by users and gives companies the ability to regulate that content.
In recent years, Facebook has struggled with human rights issues on the platform. In 2018, a New York Times investigation found that Myanmar’s military officials systematically spread propaganda on Facebook to incite the ethnic cleansing of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority population. Since 2017, Myanmar’s military has been accused of carrying out a systemic campaign of killing, rape, and arson against Rohingyas, leading over 740,000 to flee for Bangladesh, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Facebook’s current hate speech policy prohibits posts that directly attack a protected group, including someone of a racial minority, certain sexual orientation or gender, or religion. But the platform lacks a cohesive response to other “harmful false beliefs,” like certain conspiracy theories, said Laura Edelson, a PhD candidate at NYU who researches online political communication. Rather than a systematic approach to harmful misinformation, Edelson likened Facebook’s strategy to a game of “whack-a-mole.”
“You are allowed to say, currently, the Armenian genocide is a hoax and never happened,” said Edelson. “But you are not allowed to say you should die because you are an Armenian.”
From 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire killed 1.5 Armenians and expelled another half a million. However,…