Facebook, the social media leviathan, has taken one step forward but another step backward with its dual decision to evict several extremists from its platform while permitting Holocaust deniers to carry on as usual.
Facebook’s schizophrenic position is senseless and maddening.
On May 2, in accordance with its policy of banning “dangerous individuals and organizations” from its site, Facebook and its sister organization, Instagram, announced that the African-American antisemitic hate monger Louis Farrakhan, among others, would no longer be permitted access to their respective platforms.
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” Facebook said in a statement. “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”
In the past, Facebook dealt with harmful content by removing posts that violated its standards. This piecemeal approach fell short of the mark because posts that had been removed would always be supplanted by newer ones that were just as objectionable. From this point forward, however, Facebook will ban users like Farrakhan entirely.
This is a step in the right direction, but it is long overdue. Social media companies like Facebook have a solemn responsibility to ban hate speech, which is not the same as free speech. Antisemites like Farrakhan exploit the hallowed First Amendment to disseminate vicious lies, calumnies and half-truths about Jews. By doing so, he whips up artificial tensions and divisions in American society.
Unfortunately, Farrakhan and bigots like him still have access to Twitter.
It is also unfortunate that Facebook will still allow Holocaust deniers to use its platform freely. Last month, Facebook’s vice-president of global public policy, Joel Kaplan, said that users can “say things that are wrong or inaccurate, even when they are offensive.”
In an April 8 letter, which was obtained by Jewish Insider, Kaplan wrote, “We take down any content that celebrates, defends or attempts to justify the Holocaust. But we do not remove … content that is inaccurate — whether it’s denying the Holocaust, the Armenian massacre, or the fact that the Syrian government has killed hundreds of thousands of its own people.”
Last year, Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg made a similar argument. In an interview with the tech news site Recode, he said, “I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. 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 gets wrong. I don’t think they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”
Their logic is faulty.
Holocaust denial is a very dangerous phenomenon, a tool of antisemitic propagandists whose only aim is to humiliate and harm Jews and perpetuate antisemitism. Holocaust denial whitewashes the crimes against humanity committed by the amoral and evil Nazi regime. It relieves German war criminals of their complicity in an unprecedented criminal enterprise. It mocks the suffering Holocaust survivors endured and endure. It mangles and distorts history and strips it of all its meaning.
Zuckerberg’s claim that Holocaust deniers are not “intentionally getting it wrong” is shocking, ill-informed, ridiculous, galling and breathtakingly naive.
If fairness and decency are to prevail, Zuckerberg will come to his senses and deny Holocaust deniers the right to use Facebook. It’s the least he can do after removing a scumbag like Farrakhan from Facebook’s platform.