Facebook's algorithm is 'actively promoting' Holocaust denial content
Facebook’s algorithm is ‘actively promoting’ Holocaust denial content to users who’d previously looked at similar content on the internet, study claims
- The Institute for Strategic Dialogue has published a report on Holocaust denial
- They found that Facebook was ‘actively promoting’ Holocaust denial
- Users who followed pages denying the Holocaust were directed to more
- Other social media sites contain Holocaust denying material, but try to stop it
- Facebook executives including Zuckerberg have spoken against removing it
- Facebook say they take steps to remove hate speech, but do not remove lies
Facebook has been accused of ‘actively promoting’ Holocaust denial on its platform, in a new report by a British think-tank.
Researchers from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which works to counter extremism, found that people who had ‘liked’ Holocaust denial content on Facebook were directed to more of the same by the site’s algorithm.
The system is known as the ‘snowball’ method, which directs people to related content.
In the case of Holocaust denial content, ‘Facebook actively promotes further Holocaust denial content to that user,’ the authors wrote.
Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in February 2020, has said that Holocaust denial is offensive to him
The Facebook founder, however, has refused to remove Holocaust denying content
They found that 366,000 people were actively engaging with Holocaust denial content, by following 36 Facebook pages.
And, while Holocaust denial also proliferates on Reddit, Twitter and YouTube, the researchers found that Facebook was more stubborn in its refusal to block the content than other social media platforms.
‘Facebook, which has been unwilling to recognize Holocaust denial as a form of hate speech against Jews, has a small but well-established and ideologically diverse community of Holocaust deniers on its platform,’ the authors concluded.
‘Twitter has previously acted against accounts engaged in Holocaust denial.
‘Facebook executives, on the other hand, have explicitly rationalized allowing Holocaust denial on their platform.’
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, has previously spoken about his own struggle with moderating a subject like Holocaust denial on Facebook.
‘I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,’ he said in July 2018.
‘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.’
Facebook say posts and pages will be removed if they violate hate speech policies
Facebook has long been criticized for policies that allow Holocaust denial.
A 2009 article by TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington called the company ‘stubbornly proud’ of its stance after Brian Cuban, brother of billionaire investor Mark Cuban, criticized the company for ‘promoting and encouraging hatred.’
‘The mere statement of denying the Holocaust is not a violation of our terms,’ a Facebook spokesperson told ABC News at the time.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement after Zuckerberg’s 2018 comments that Holocaust denial is a ‘willful, deliberate, and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews.’
The authors of the ISD report used as evidence a letter from Joel Kaplan, Vice President for Global Public Policy at Facebook, sent in 2019 to the chairman of the US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad.
The letter explained that Facebook would not remove ‘lies or content that is inaccurate – whether it’s denying the Holocaust, the Armenian massacre, or the fact that the Syrian government has killed hundreds of thousands of its own people’.
Zuckerberg is pictured testifying in July before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law on ‘Online Platforms and Market Power’
Kaplan explained that ‘this is because we do believe that people should be able to say things on Facebook that are wrong or inaccurate, even when they are offensive’.
A Facebook representative told Business Insider: ‘We take down any post that celebrates, defends, or attempts to justify the Holocaust. The same goes for any content that mocks Holocaust victims, accuses victims of lying, spews hate, or advocates for violence against Jewish people in any way.
‘We also remove Groups and Pages that discuss Holocaust denial from recommendations and references to it in search predictions.
‘While we do not take down content simply for being untruthful, many posts that deny the Holocaust often violate our policies against hate speech and are removed.’
Facebook acknowledged that ‘striking the right balance between keeping people safe and allowing free speech is difficult and we know many people strongly disagree with our position.’
The company concluded: ‘We are constantly developing and reviewing our policies and consulting with organizations around the world to ensure we’re getting it right.’
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