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November 29, 2016 12:22 pm

Following Major Outcry in Germany, Facebook Finally Removes Page of Far-Right Group That Posted Map Targeting Jewish Businesses

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Social media giant Facebook has finally deleted the page of a far-right group responsible for posting a map of Berlin that identified Jewish-owned institutions and businesses across the city, The New York Times reported on Monday.

The controversial image — which was titled “Jews Among Us,” and showed the names and locations of more than 70 Jewish establishments — was removed following a concerted effort on the part of concerned citizens in the German capital during which local officials, owners of businesses targeted on the map, social media users and journalists complained about its antisemitic content. Initially, Facebook took no action, claiming the page met its “community standards” and guidelines on free speech. But in response to the pressure, it reversed its decision.

Richard Allen, Facebook’s director of policy in Europe, said that, in retrospect, it was the right decision. “We recognize that this is a work in progress,” he said. “It was hate speech, and it should have been taken down.”

The map was posted on Facebook by a neo-Nazi group on the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” on November 9, 1938, when the Nazis burned down Jewish homes, synagogues and businesses across Germany, killing 100 people. Restaurant owner Yorai Feinberg told The New York Times that after his Berlin eatery was listed on the map, he began receiving anonymous phone calls saying things like, “I hate Jews.” The 35-year-old Israeli said he did not report the incident to Facebook, because he was convinced — based on some 20 previous failed attempts to have antisemitic material removed from its pages — that the social media giant would do nothing.

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Facebook claimed it constantly updates its community standards to filter out inappropriate posts and comments. Allen told The New York Times, “We’ve done more than any other service at trying to get on top of hate speech on our platform.”

This is not the first time that Facebook has faced criticism in Germany, according to The New York Times. The country, which has strict laws about online content, has previously demanded of the social media platform that it be more vigilant in monitoring posts. Last year in September, Chancellor Angela Merkel confronted Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg on this issue, and Justice Minister Heiko Maas implied the following month that the company could face criminal charges for not acting swiftly enough to remove hate speech.

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