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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Facebook and Holocaust Denial.

(cross-posted at kickin it with cg)

Controversy has been reignited after it emerged that the Facebook has refused to close groups that promote Holocaust denial. Although the social networking site’s position in this matter is not new, this story has seemingly gained some traction recently in the media.

Perhaps one of the loudest voices opposing the corporate line is Brian Cuban who is leading the charge to get Facebook to remove these groups.  After a story from Chris Matyszczyk of CNET covered Cuban on this issue, it drew an official response from Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt:

The bottom line is that, of course, we abhor Nazi ideals and find Holocaust denial repulsive and ignorant. However, we believe people have a right to discuss these ideas and we want Facebook to be a place where ideas, even controversial ideas, can be discussed. Of course, we have some limits.


Then Schnitt in a recent interview with CNN said:

“It’s a difficult decision to make. We have a lot of internal debate and we bring in experts to talk about it,” Schnitt said. “Just being offensive or objectionable doesn’t get it taken off Facebook. We want it [the site] to be a place where people can discuss all kinds of ideas, including controversial ones.

Cuban responded in an open letter to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

The Holocaust Denial movement  is nothing more than a pretext to allow the preaching of hatred against Jews and to recruit other like minded individuals to do the same.  Allowing these groups to flourish on Facebook under the guise of “open discussion”  does nothing more than help spread their  message of hate.  Is this the kind of open discussion that Facebook wants to encourage?  Is this really where you want to draw your line?

It is undisputed that as a collective , Holocaust Deniers are overwhelmingly antisemitic.  One cannot be separated from the other.   They use a fringe, discredited historical theory as a pretext and rallying point to perpetrate and promote their message of hate using Facebook as  recruiting ground.   By allowing these groups whether they number 1 or 1000, Facebook is not promoting open discussion of  a controversial issue.  It is  promoting and encouraging hatred towards ethnic and religious groups, nothing more.

By claiming open discussion as the rationale for allowing these groups to exist, Facebook is playing games with semantics.  Facebook is taking form over substance to protect their imaginary subjective corporate line in the sand they have drawn.

Some have also argued that Facebook picks and chooses which groups are being removed ‘setting a subjective standard’ and that “there is no First Amendment right to free speech in the private realm.” They note that Facebook bans pictures of breastfeeding mothers because of nudity, yet isn’t prepared to stand against closing groups that are illegal in at least 13 countries. It is also interesting to note that while it was reported that Facebook took down the group HoloHoax, that appears to be inaccurate.

The Guardian breaks it down:

But perhaps the argument is really about where Facebook puts it priorities. Given that the company runs a 150-strong team of so-called “porn cops” to patrol for risque images – profiled at length recently in Newsweek – why does it feel that hate speech isn’t worth the same amount of trouble?

The battle for corporate interests versus social responsibility has begun.


  1. DENIAL is the eighth stage that always follows a genocide.  

    It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres.  The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses.  They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims.  They block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern until driven from power by force, when they flee into exile.  There they remain with impunity, like Pol Pot or Idi Amin, unless they are captured and a tribunal is established to try them.  The response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts.  There the evidence is heard, and the perpetrators punished. Tribunals like the Yugoslav or Rwanda Tribunals, a tribunal to try the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, or the International Criminal Court may not deter the worst killers.  But with the political will to arrest and prosecute them, some may be brought to justice.  And such courts may deter future potential genocidists who can never again share Hitler’s expectation of impunity when he sneered,”Who, after all, remembers the Armenians?”  

    Gregory H. Stanton, founder of Genocide Watch

  2. If it was just as simple as saying that it wouldn’t be an issue.  There are always arguable reasons to make people shut up, the use of words that cross moral grounds are always the best ones.  The anti-abortion activist types believe that allowing abortion education is promoting murder, so they have a very strong argument to stop that speech.  One person’s beliefs are another person’s hate speech.

    It is absolutely critical that we permit people to be wrong in public.  Stifling them won’t make less of them, it will only leave them alone with those who are vulnerable to their ideas.

    I can’t disagree more with the idea that people should be pressured to censor others.  They – and you, and I – need let each other say what we think even when we disagree as much as we both do about Holocaust deniers, and as much as we both do with each other over censorship.

  3. creamer

     I hate the fact that I have to listen those views I hate. On a bad day I can hate those who expouse those views.

      I rarely give much credence to slippery slope arguments, but regulating what can be said on the web, no matter how well intentioned, gives me pause. We’ve always had fringe elements, and while the web might allow for an easier airing of their views, I’m not sure it increases the rolls of crazy ass whacko’s.

  4. Radiowalla

    It is not the public square.  As a business, it can decide how it wants to conduct itself and what type of forum it wishes to provide, just as the owners of  Motleymoose and other web venues get to decide what sort of content is appropriate for them.

    Facebook surely has the right to allow hate speech if that is their business plan.

    If Facebook decided to kick off the Holocaust deniers, that would be their call and it wouldn’t be a denial of “free speech” since their is no obligation for a private business to provide a forum for any and all comers.

    Do I think they should kick out the Holocaust folks?  Hell, yes!   I almost wished I had a Facebook account so I could cancel it in protest.

    Good diary, Canadian Gal!

  5. since Chris and Hubie are presenting the same arguments I would make. In other discussions about hate speech and similar topics, I’ve made it abundantly clear how I feel about this subject. I would far rather err on the side of too much freedom than on the side of too much restriction.

  6. creamer

      Sorry  Brit and CG, if you were us, you would be able to handle free speech. But you are not us, and obviously your goverments saw the need to restrict what you could say. We do health better, we do cars better, we are exceptional at war. It just stands to reason we are better at speaking freely than you.

    Seriously I found the back and forth here stimulating in a non-nude non-porn kind of way. And I must say, its always bothered me that we need to allow the klan, white supremist and their kind to exist, much less expouse their hatred. But thats what we do here.

    Also having thought more about this it is curious that Facebook wouldn’t just drop/ban this kind of thing. There would be no apparent downside to a ban.( Possibly some flaming cross’s in the corporate parking lot.)

  7. HappyinVT

    I cannot help tossing my two cents into the mix.

    An oldy but a goody from Justice Potter Stewart in 1964.

    I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so.  But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.


    One man’s porn and one man’s incitement is another man’s art and another man’s free speech.  I’m a bit of a prude; I don’t care to look at pictures of naked folks.  I guess it comes from the way I was raised.  (And, yes, I know there is a different between “naked” and “nude” to the artsy set, but it’s all naked to me.)  I also don’t like to read hateful speech directed toward anyone but they are entitled to their misguided, disgusting opinion.  I do think some people can be influenced by what they read on the Internet.  Unfortunately, that is the price we pay for our society.  

    Facebook, (I have a page and never use it) may not be always equal in what they allow to remain posted but I would like to think they have reasons for what they remove and what they let stay.  I hope that they err on the side of letting stuff stay.  In fact, I’d argue to let it all stay.  Maybe they can have a “premuim channel” for porn so that a credit card is needed to access those pages (presumably weeding out the youngsters).

  8. Strummerson

    Holocaust denial is not just a controversial or even loony historical theory.  It’s not just something that incites.  Though both of these are true.  But in running to debate the general principle and analyze holocaust denial formally, there has been a lack of attention to the content and why it’s so insidious.

    Holocaust denial, even the most “civil” versions, presupposes a nefarious Jewish conspiracy.  It’s the contemporary Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  It’s a direct extension of its progenitor’s NAZIism’s rationale for its revolutionary anti-Semitism.  Holocaust denial is like the circulation of the myth that black men are hyper-sexual predators that want to rape white women.  The line from there to lynchings is short and to much more pervasive and insidious subtle degradations.

    I oppose outlawing holocaust denial.  It’s not really a free speech issue.  It’s about a social networking site passively facilitating the dissemination of verbal violence that is intrinsically connected to the immediate threat of physical violence.  Let the public sphere be public.  But let private company’s display the conscience not to assist these dangerous nut-jobs.  Should facebook also allow mock snuff films?

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