Facebook Allows Holocaust-Denying Pages to Stay

 

Facebook, extending its mercurial policies toward offensive user-created content, has told Holocaust survivors that groups created to deny the existence of the Holocaust will remain on their site.  The decision was a blow to the people who had advocated for their removal, and seems somewhat inexplicable, given Facebook’s history of removing pages that were proven to be hate speech.

Earlier this month, 21 Holocaust survivors affiliated with the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote a letter to Facebook, asking the website to remove groups which allege that the Holocaust was a hoax.  They requested that Facebook cease to allow Holocaust-deniers to utilize their “powerful social networking platform,” saying that the groups were “shameless, cynical and hateful propaganda,” and should not be protected by Facebook’s free speech policy.

“Do not permit Holocaust denial any platform on Facebook to preach its inherent message of lies and hate,” they wrote.  ”By allowing this hate propaganda on Facebook, you are exposing the public and, in particular, youth to the anti-Semitism which fueled the Holocaust.”

In the past, Facebook has come under fire for failing to adequately police its groups, which are sometimes shockingly offensive.  For example, last year, a group called for men to kill sex workers, and a truly charming group of Australian college students, who declared themselves to be “anti-consent,” created a “pro-rape” Facebook page.

Facebook only occasionally takes protests against these pages seriously.  In March, they decided to remove a group called the “Third Palestinian Intifada,” which openly incited violence against Jews. The page, however, was soon re-launched.

The site has a clear-cut policy about what users can and cannot post, and they are expressly prohibited from using Facebook for “hateful, threatening” material.  But Facebook’s definition of “hateful” and “threatening” seems to be quite loose.  Explaining the decision to allow Holocaust-denying pages to stay, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said,

“We think that there is a meaningful difference between advocating violence against a group of people and expressing an opinion on a policy, set of beliefs, or historical event — even if that opinion is factually wrong, or is outrageous or offensive to most people. However, if the members of the Holocaust denial groups consistently post hateful or threatening comments, we will take the groups down, and we have done so on many occasions.”

For Holocaust survivors – and Jews more generally – the very act of denying one of the worst genocides in history is itself an act of violence.  As Rabbi Abraham Cooper points out, “A review of denial sites currently active on Facebook confirm that it is not mere (free) speech but that it constitutes at its core a platform for bigotry and hatred of Jews, dead and alive. That is how notorious Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites continue to manipulate Facebook’s social networking service in multiple languages.”

It’s unclear why Facebook is so reluctant to remove groups that patently constitute hate speech.  But whether users are advocating for the deaths of sex workers or claiming that the Holocaust never happened, Facebook should deny them the privilege of using the site as a platform for their views.

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Photo from neilhooting via flickr.

118 comments

William C
William C1 days ago

Thanks for caring.

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W. C
W. C2 months ago

Thank you for the information.

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Debbie Bush
Debbie Bush6 years ago

It just goes to show the mentality of the people "following"(remind anyone else of sheople) lies and violence being spread,on Facebook or elsewhere. I personally have a word of warning for anyone finding a punch in the face and or rape swinging in my direction. More than likely why I wasn't made aware of this sling-fest before. I'd say maybe a petition might be worth looking into here. Thank you for educating me on the obtuse thinking on Facebook. Thinking of yanking the plug on it as I write.

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Christina Long
Christina Long6 years ago

FaceBook has to walk a fine line here. If they would've taken the page down, they would've been labeled "anti-free speech" and if they leave it up they are insensitive and maybe could be seen as anti-semitic. But I do see their point. If we think about this critically, they are right in assessing it the way they did. Yes, there is a meaningful difference between advocating violence against a group of people and expressing an opinion on a policy, set of beliefs, about a historical event. This group, thus far, has expressed opinions. Opinions that this historical and reprehensible event did not happen. We all know it did, but for the sake of arguement, these guys are actually only expressing an opinion (albeit misguided), and they are allowed to under our nation's and Facebook's free speech policy. I think it's a slap in the face for Jewish people too, but they do have a right to speak about it, without advocating violence or committing it. The next thing to consider is whether denial of The Holocaust could be construed as an act of violence. That is for the lawyers and possibly the Supreme Court to figure out.

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Anna Borsey
Anna Borsey6 years ago

Hmmm . . . 10% voted No and a further 2% voted Leaning No. Very worrying indeed.

Facebook is utter rubbish, absolute tripe.

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Ellyn L.
Ellen L6 years ago

It behooves me that this day and age with all the history and documentation that some idiots actually doubt that the halocaust took place, Or, is it that they claim not to believe to persuade those undereducated to accept this proposterous idea.

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colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

freedom is speech is a fickle thing. sometimes you can do this, sometimes you cannot do other things. sometimes you are allowed to believe in one thing, and sometimes you cannot.

if I made a "mock the stupid" club(not page, I cannot seem to be able to make real pages with a discussion forum and where people can upload their own photos) would it stay? "if she runs away from you, she plays hard to get" can stay.

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Carole R.
Carole R6 years ago

Yet another reason I am no longer on Facebook. It is out of control.

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Joy Jin
Joy Jin6 years ago

that's awful. facebook needs to be more careful with regulations and what groups can be made. and these regulations need to be enforced.

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Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

There were other groups besides jews that was put in concentration and death camps. Among them gays and lesbians, socialists, romani, etc. I don't think any in those groups condone the Holocaust deniers actions. I certainly don't! The problem is way deeper than Facebooks weird policies. When schools no longer educate students about the horrors of Nazi-Germany and Stalin-Sovjet, we get a generation of easily persuaded teenagers and young adults who will believe those deniers.

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