September 19, 2018

Jewish Groups Slam Zuckerberg for Refusing to Take Down Holocaust Denial Content from Facebook

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a recent interview that while he finds Holocaust denial content posted on Facebook to be disgusting, the social media platform will not remove such content, resulting in blowback from Jewish organizations.

Zuckerberg was asked by ReCode’s Kara Swisher in a July 18 interview if he would take down conspiracy-theory content such as what is promulgated by the Infowars website. Zuckerberg replied by saying that Facebook would take down content that results in violence. He then turned to Holocaust deniers to illustrate his reasoning.

“I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” Zuckerberg said. “I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, 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 that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”

Swisher interjected by stating that Holocaust may actually be intentionally getting it wrong, prompting Zuckerberg to respond by noting that it’s difficult to prove intent

“The reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly,” Zuckerberg said. “I’m sure you do. I’m sure a lot of leaders and public figures we respect do too, and I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, ‘We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times.’”

Zuckerberg added that instead, such content just wouldn’t be widely promulgated by Facebook’s algorithms.

The Facebook CEO’s comments resulted in backlash from Jewish organizations. Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Abraham Cooper said in a statement that Facebook officials told the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2009 that Holocaust denial content would be removed from the platform.

“Holocaust denial is the quintessential ‘fake news,’” Cooper said. “The Nazi Holocaust is the most documented atrocity in history, allowing the canard of Holocaust denial to be posted on Facebook, or any other social media platform cannot be justified in the name of  ‘free exchange of ideas’ when the idea itself is based on a falsehood.”

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement, “Holocaust denial is a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews. Facebook has a moral and ethical obligation not to allow its dissemination. ADL will continue to challenge Facebook on this position and call on them to regard Holocaust denial as a violation of their community guidelines.”

In response to the blowback, Zuckerberg sent a statement to Swisher that read, “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.”

Facebook has also issued a statement doubling down on their policy.

“Reducing the distribution of misinformation—rather than removing it outright—strikes the right balance between free expression and a safe and authentic community,” the company said. “There are certain forms of misinformation that have contributed to physical harm, and we are making a policy change which will enable us to take that type of content down.”