update deskAntisemitism

International legal group works to remove Holocaust-denial content on Facebook

The actions by the Lawfare Project came following controversial comments by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, saying he does not believe that Holocaust-denial content should be removed.

Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Lawfare Project filed take-down notices this week against Facebook posts denying the Holocaust and containing anti-Semitic material, successfully leading to several posts being removed or blocked by Facebook in a number of countries.

The actions by the international legal firm came following controversial comments last week by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, saying he does not believe that Holocaust-denial content should be removed.

“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,” he said.

Zuckerberg later clarified his statement, saying that he finds Holocaust denial “deeply offensive.”

Facebook had drawn criticism over the fact that it would allow Infowars—a site that traffics in conspiracy theories—to remain on the social-media platform. Nevertheless, Facebook did say that it would begin to remove content that is flagged, escalated and confirmed by local partners as false and possibly contributing to violence.

As such, the Lawfare Project’s Spanish counsel, Ignacio Wenley Palacios, set out to demonstrate that Facebook’s takedown policy is inconsistent. In several European countries, Holocaust denial violates both criminal and civil law, and is considered libel against the Jewish people.

“In just two days, takedown notices filed online have resulted in the removal of several anti-Semitic posts containing Holocaust denial, abusive content or racism. Whenever we find blatant Holocaust denial that Facebook refuses to remove, we will file legal proceedings to ensure that Facebook does not follow Mr. Zuckerberg’s stated approach,” stated Palacios.

Facebook’s current takedown policy, enforced by algorithms and people manually reviewing content, does not permit content that violates a wide variety of hate speech, including “anything that directly attacks people based on what are known as their “protected characteristics”—race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, or serious disability or disease.”

In contrast with Holocaust denial, much of this hate speech is legal.

Brooke Goldstein, director of the Lawfare Project, said: “Facebook bans hate speech that attacks groups based on ethnicity or religious affiliation, so statements should be removed if they attack the Jewish people, an ethno-religious group. In countries such as Spain, where Holocaust denial violates civil and criminal law, we will continue taking action to get it removed.”

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