Facebook is finding it hard to define what constitutes hate speech. As reported in a December 31, 2020 article in Business Insider, in the wake of the social media platform’s decision in October to ban posts denying the Holocaust, anti-hate advocates are now calling on Facebook to ban posts denying the Armenian genocide as well. Though perhaps less well known, the campaign conducted by the Ottoman empire against ethnic Armenians from 1915 to 1923 resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million people and expulsion of another half a million.
To NYU Tandon Ph.D. candidate Laura Edelson, who has spent a lot of time over the past few years studying Facebook policies as part of the Online Political Transparency Project, the actions taken so far lack a way to respond to other “harmful false beliefs,” like certain conspiracy theories. Rather than a systematic approach to harmful misinformation, Edelson likened Facebook’s strategy to a game of “whack-a-mole.” As an example, she points out “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.”