Facebook founder had suggested site did not need to remove unintentional denial
Mark Zuckerberg has been criticised by Jewish groups and anti-racism organisations for suggesting Holocaust denial should be allowed on Facebook because it could be unintentional.
In an interview on Wednesday, the Facebook founder said he found Holocaust denial deeply offensive, but added: I dont believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I dont think that theyre intentionally getting it wrong Its hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent.
Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, later retracted his remarks, issuing an update that said: I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didnt intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.
But his comment came too late to stop criticism from Jewish groups, both for the specifics of his statement and the general practice of allowing Holocaust denial to thrive on his platform.
Stephen Silverman, director of investigations and enforcement at the Campaign Against Antisemitism, told the Guardian: Mark Zuckerbergs remarks are deeply irresponsible. There is no such thing as benign Holocaust denial.
It is solely a means of inciting hatred against Jews by claiming that we fabricated the genocide of our people to extort money in the form of reparations. It is utterly abusive and Mark Zuckerberg must take responsibility for excising it from Facebook.
Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the US-based Anti-Defamation League, said: Holocaust denial is a wilful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by antisemites 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.
Matthew McGregor, campaigns director of HOPE not hate, told the Guardian: The Holocaust is one of the great evils of history, an industrial genocide levelled against the Jewish people. It did happen and it is more than just deeply offensive: it is incredibly dangerous to give any credence or platform to those who deny it.
Facebook, as a publisher of content, has a responsibility to ensure that the violence inherent in the message of Holocaust deniers must not be able to flourish without being challenged or held in check. This is not about getting it wrong, it is about not enabling dangerous people to spread a vile message of hate.
Facebooks community guidelines, published in detail in April, a year after the Guardian obtained the then secret documents in a leak, ban hate speech because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence.
But the companys definition of hate speech requires violent or dehumanising speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation, which it says does not cover Holocaust denial.
Facebook removes Holocaust denial in some countries, such as Germany, where it is illegal. Monika Bickert, Facebooks head of global policy, explained the distinction in May, telling an event at Oxford University that something might be illegal in 10 countries, but if only two countries say this is important to us, its illegal, remove it, we will do it. And if the others dont, we will not remove it.
Sometimes countries may have laws on the books this is certainly true in the United States, I can say as an American lawyer that are really out of date with how that culture thinks about speech, that are no longer enforced. So we wait for that government to make a request about it.