Facebook should ban Holocaust denial to mark 75th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation – USA TODAY

Posted By on January 29, 2020

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, Opinion contributor Published 7:00 a.m. ET Jan. 26, 2020 | Updated 1:23 p.m. ET Jan. 26, 2020

A 'Holocaust Revisionism' group promotes a 'Holocaust Deprogramming Course' to counter 'Holo-brainwashing.' This is anti-Semitism, not misinformation.

Since the world first learned of the genocide that unfolded in concentration camps across Europe during World War II, there hasbeen much progress toward ensuring the lessons of the Holocaust are not easily forgotten.

As we mark the 75thanniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, theres solace in the fact that world leaders, the United Nations and European governmentscontinue to honor the memory of the 6 million Jews and millions of others who perished. Along with videotaped survivor testimonies and Holocaust education in schools, this goesa long way toward ensuring that the message of Never Again will continue to resonate into the future.

But theres also reason for concern. At a time when anti-Semitism is risingand when public awareness of the Holocaustis waning, we cannot let our guard down and assume the world wont forget. Recent trends suggest that theres much work to be done, both in terms of promoting greater awareness and in guarding against denialism.

The ready availability of Holocaust denial on social media remains one of the most pressing problems.

With a staggering 2.45 billion monthly active users worldwide, Facebook is the largest and most established offender. Facebooks policies still do not specify Holocaust denial to be hate.

This, despite thecontroversy in 2018after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg suggested that Holocaust denial while abhorrent to him was nevertheless an opinion, not outright hate speech, and therefore not prohibited content. Facebook doubled down on this approach when, in announcing the change to its policy prohibiting white nationalism in March 2019, it reaffirmed that Holocaust denial was a form of misinformation.

The entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland.(Photo: Pawel Sawicki/Auschwitz Memorial and Museum via epa-EFE)

This means that even if you report Holocaust denial on Facebook, and even if it is determined by Facebook to be Holocaust denial, it will not be taken down for violating Facebooks policies. You can easily locate pages from notorious Holocaust denial groups on Facebook with just a few clicks. For instance, a group called "Holocaust Revisionism," withover 1,900 members, includes posts promoting a "Holocaust Deprogramming Course" which claims it will free readers from a lifetime of Holo-brainwashing. To Facebook, this is merely misinformation.

Lets be clear:Holocaust denialis nothing more than anti-Semitism. It is an attempt to deny the Jewish people their history, one of many tactics used by bigots in the long-running campaign to delegitimize the Jewish people.Deniers claim that the Holocaust never happened, or that some much smaller number of Jews did diebut primarily from diseases.They also claim that accounts of the Holocaust are merely propaganda generated by Jews for their own benefit. Denialismis often used by some of the worlds foremost anti-Semites among them former Ku Klux Klan wizardDavid Duke, Iranian Supreme LeaderAli Khameneiand 2018 congressional candidateArthur Jonesto foment hate against Jews.

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Holocaust denial and related forms of anti-Semitism are easily available to anyone with an internet connection. According to law enforcement, more thana month before a machete-wielding man stabbed five people at a Hanukkah party in Monsey, New York, heused an online search engine for the query, Why did Hitler hate the Jews?Giventhe well-documented proliferation of anti-Semitism on social mediaand on the internet in general, one would assume he found plenty of confirmation of his alleged biases.

Some popular social media platforms recently have taken steps to mitigate the impact of Holocaust denial. On Jan. 8, TikTok released a new set of community guidelines thatbannedHolocaust denial and conspiracy theories. LastJune, YouTube changed itspolicyto ban videos promoting Holocaust denial, white supremacy and harmful conspiracy theories. These are welcome developments.

Even so, the question remains: With the countless videos and other types of content being shared on these social platforms and others, how does anyone enforce or police this effectively?

Other platforms are struggling with this, too. It was recently brought to the attention of Spotify, the music streaming service,that a cursory search of its playlists for Anne Frank found playlists with disturbing titles such as getting gassed with Anne Frank.Spotify says it isin the process of removingthose offensive playlists.

Online retailer Amazon has struggled to deal with retailers hawking questionable Nazi-glorifying merchandise such as Auschwitz Holocaust Christmas ornaments. Anda recent Anti-Defamation Leaguesurvey found that almost 1in 10 Americans who play online multiplayer gamesare exposedto discussions about Holocaust denial.

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Addressing these problems will take a concerted effort by the tech industry. For that to happen, though, there needs to be a full recognition of a basic reality: Holocaust denial is anti-Semitismand therefore hate speech. Unfortunately, Facebook, the largest social media platformon the planet, just cant seem to get there.

At a time when online hate speech and white supremacy is demonstrably leading to violent acts witness Pittsburgh, Poway, El Paso, Christchurch, Jersey City, Monsey and Halle, Germanyit is imperative that the history of the Holocaust is preserved and respected.

Social media companies can play a unique role in helping preserve that history by adopting policies that explicitly forbid Holocaust denial. In light of the wave of anti-Semitic violence that has plagued our country over the past year, its time for these companies to step up.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt is CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Follow him on Twitter:@JGreenblattADL

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