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July 19, 2018 12:31 pm

Facebook CEO Zuckerberg Draws Fire Over Holocaust Remarks

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Reuters / Leah Millis.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg came under fire on Wednesday after saying that posts by Holocaust deniers should not be deleted from his social media platform.

In an interview on the “Recode Decode” podcast, Zuckerberg 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 get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”

“It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” he continued. “I just think, as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly. I’m sure you do. I’m sure a lot of leaders and public figures we respect do too, and I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, ‘We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times.'”

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt took issue with Zuckerberg’s words, saying in a statement, “Holocaust denial is a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews. Facebook has a moral and ethical obligation not to allow its dissemination. The ADL will continue to challenge Facebook on this position and call on them to regard Holocaust denial as a violation of their community guidelines.”

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Rabbi Abraham Cooper — the associate dean and director of global social action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) — said, “Mark Zuckerberg is wrong. Holocaust deniers only come in two flavors — those who don’t want to believe there was an Auschwitz and those who want to finish the job, like Iran.”

“Holocaust denial is the quintessential ‘fake news,’” Cooper added. “The Nazi Holocaust is the most documented atrocity in history, allowing the canard of Holocaust denial to be posted on Facebook, or any other social media platform cannot be justified in the name of  ‘free exchange of ideas’ when the idea itself is based on a falsehood.”

National Council of Young Israel President Farley Weiss said, “By knowingly providing a public platform for Holocaust deniers to spew their malicious lies, Facebook is validating a dangerous form of anti-Semitism that has no place in a civilized society. Denying the heinous and indescribable atrocities carried out by the Nazis is a terrible affront to the memories of the six-million innocent Jewish men, women and children who perished during one of the darkest chapters in world history, and it is unfathomable that Facebook allows itself to be used as a vehicle to perpetuate such a blatant distortion of what took place during the Holocaust.”

“This is not a freedom of speech issue; rather, it is a question of inciting hatred against Jews, which Facebook cannot and should not condone in any way,” Weiss concluded. “Facebook must immediately cease permitting its users to brazenly spread misinformation about the tragic fate that befell the Jews during the Holocaust and stop giving license to hatemongers who engage in blatant anti-Semitism and revisionist history.”

Zuckerberg later tried to clarify his remarks, saying, “There’s one thing I want to clear up. I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.”

“Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue — but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services,” he stated. “If something is spreading and is rated false by fact checkers, it would lose the vast majority of its distribution in News Feed. And of course if a post crossed line into advocating for violence or hate against a particular group, it would be removed. These issues are very challenging but I believe that often the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech.”

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