Comment to the Meta Oversight Board Regarding Holocaust Denial and Distortion Content

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To: Oversight Board  
From: ADL (Anti-Defamation League)
Date: August 31, 2023 
Re: Comment to Oversight Board regarding Holocaust denial and distortion content
Case No. 2023-022-IG-UA

Holocaust denial and distortion content is hate speech. Period. It should be removed from Meta–and other platforms–quickly, consistently, and at scale. Meta’s own policies classify “any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust” as hate speech. In 2020, after a decade of pressure from ADL and other organizations, the policy was updated to change the Holocaust denial content classification from misinformation to hate speech. At present, Holocaust denial and distortion is a Tier 1 violation of Meta’s hate speech policy, meaning it is forbidden on Meta platforms. The case before the Oversight Board is a blatant example of Holocaust denial and distortion. The persistence of the Instagram post in question is a clear violation of Meta’s stated policy. ADL is concerned that despite it being reported by users at least six times after it was posted on Instagram, Meta did not remove the post until this case was taken up by the Oversight Board. ADL strongly encourages the Oversight Board to affirm the decision to remove the post–and direct Meta to actually enforce their policies as stated. Meta should robustly take down Holocaust denial and distortion content whenever it surfaces on its platforms. 

Holocaust denial and distortion is hate speech. Meta must classify it as such and action content accordingly. The Holocaust is one of history’s most exhaustively documented and studied atrocities. Nazis systematically murdered approximately six million Jews and several million others. Nevertheless, antisemites have tried to cast doubt on the facts of the Holocaust concerning Jewish victims. They claim that Jews fabricated evidence of their genocide to gain sympathy, extract reparations from Germany, and facilitate the alleged illegal acquisition of Palestinian land to create Israel. Holocaust deniers have used social media and online multiplayer games to spread their virulent ideas and garner support.  

Holocaust denial and distortion continues to be broadcast in mainstream spaces, both on and offline. Despite clear policies that prohibit Holocaust denial and distortion, this antisemitic conspiracy theory still percolates across social media. ADL’s most recent Holocaust Denial Report Card illustrates this trend. Offline, antisemites and white supremacists have promoted Holocaust denial and distortion in nationwide on-the-ground antisemitic propaganda campaigns and livestreams, aimed at recruiting new followers to their cause. Tragically, ideas about Holocaust denial and distortion have gained mainstream traction. According to a 2020 study from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, 49% of young Americans (aged 18-39) had seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts online. 63% of those surveyed did not know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust and 3% agreed with the statement “The Holocaust is a myth and did not happen.”  

In addition to robustly moderating Holocaust denial and distortion to ensure it is not proliferating on social media, we must address the normalization of Holocaust denial and distortion—and antisemitic tropes writ large—through Holocaust education. ADL research found that 85% of Americans believe at least one anti-Jewish trope. Twenty percent believe six or more tropes. Importantly, however, ADL research also shows that people with basic knowledge about the Holocaust are less likely to believe antisemitic tropes, which strongly indicates that Holocaust education can be an effective intervention. ADL has long advocated for Holocaust education to build respect for differences, an understanding of where prejudice can lead, and an appreciation for the fragility of democracy. As part of the #LearnToNeverForget Campaign, ADL supported the Holocaust Education & Antisemitism Lessons (HEAL) Act in Congress. ADL advocates for policymakers and industry to prioritize Holocaust education as an antidote to the Holocaust denial and distortion content that still lurks on its platforms.  

Holocaust denial and distortion on Meta platforms, on any forum, online or offline, is unequivocally hate speech. The Oversight Board must direct Meta to act accordingly by quickly removing violating posts like the one at issue in this case. Waiting for appeals to rise to the Oversight Board is unacceptable.