Should Holocaust denial be allowed on Facebook? In a wide-ranging interview with Recode earlier this week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that the answer is “yes.”
“At the end of the day,” he stated, “I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think they are intentionally getting it wrong.”
Even in clarifying his remarks the same day, Zuckerberg — while noting that he found Holocaust denial “deeply offensive” and wasn’t trying to defend the deniers — still hasn’t backed away from the notion that Holocaust denial shouldn’t be removed, even if the information is provably false.
The problem is, Facebook’s CEO fails to understand that Holocaust denial is not simply a gross distortion of the facts, but is also a pernicious form of anti-Semitic hate speech that serves no other purpose than to attack Jews.
Facebook does try to ban hate speech — and should root out Holocaust denial on those grounds, not simply because it’s false.
We are talking here about a conspiracy theory which argues that Jews around the world knowingly fabricated evidence of their own genocide in order to extract reparations money from Germany, gain world sympathy and facilitate the theft of Palestinian land for the creation of Israel. It is founded on the belief that Jews are able to force governments, Hollywood, the media and academia to promote a lie at the expense of non-Jews.
There are many variants of this hatred, and it’s embraced by anti-Semites of all stripes. For instance, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has said in his speeches that, “I don’t know how many Jews were killed,” and “You can’t even engage in constructive argument over the veracity of the Holocaust.”
Arthur Jones, a vocal white supremacist and Holocaust denier who is now running for Congress in Illinois, speaks of the “Holocaust Racket” that blames “Organized World Jewry” for perpetrating “the biggest, blackest lie in history.”
Despite the anti-Semitism deep in the core of these ideas, they’re still allowed on Facebook, even though its community standards say “We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disability or disease.”
A quick perusal of Facebook this week turned up a plethora of Holocaust-denying content, such as a video called “Zionist Jews Use the Holocaust Hoax as their God,” a photo posed by a user claiming that “There was no gas chamber Holocaust … Gassing jews is Zionist propaganda inflicted on us to justify creating the illegal state of Israel,” and a cartoon posting the question: “How Long can the Jews perpetrate the Holocaust Myth? Answer: Not Much Longer!”
To be fair, over the past few years, Facebook has made some progress in responding to Holocaust denial. There are fewer open Facebook groups devoted to promoting Holocaust denial. But there are still closed groups that are hotbeds for it.
Zuckerberg has built a publishing platform that has captivated the hearts and minds of billions of people. As the immediate backlash against Zuckerberg’s comments this week shows, people believe that Facebook has a real responsibility to not allow it to be used to foment hate and violence. To that end, it’s time for Facebook to shut down Holocaust denial on its site once and for all.