Facebook is actively permitting Holocaust denial to appear on its website, having an active policy of removing it in only four countries, a policy which is taught to content moderators.
The social media giant has had an extremely mixed record in dealing with antisemitism, frequently refusing to remove antisemitic conspiracy theories, blood libels and Nazi propaganda, and even incitement to “kill all Jews“. However, documents leaked by the Guardian show the extent of the company’s failure to deal with antisemitism. The documents are from a training manual which is used to instruct Facebook’s content moderators.
In the documents, Facebook allegedly cites the risk of being blocked by particular countries as their main reason for blocking the content. Despite Holocaust denial being illegal in 14 countries, Facebook only removes it in the four countries (France, Germany, Austria and Israel) they worry will actively pursue them for not doing so.
Facebook’s policy is that they “will only block” Holocaust denial if it is reported from one the four aforementioned countries.
Whilst a general concern for free speech is of course important, Facebook risks legitimising Holocaust denial by only removing it in 4 countries. There is already a huge antisemitism problem on social media generally, both from the far right, the far left, and from Islamists, and they seem to increasingly have complete liberty to spread their views to impressionable people, often without sanction from Facebook. However, the fact that what was previously apparently just a general failure to deal with antisemitism seems to have developed into an active policy, an extremely worrying precedent, which we hope Facebook will address.