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ADL slams Facebook’s handling of antisemitism in letter to oversight board

In one post from May 20, a Facebook user quoted Nazi mastermind Joseph Goebbels saying Jews are “masters at manipulating public opinion.”

In another, from May 19, a user posted a photo of a person holding a sign saying “Hitler Was Right.”

Another, from last year, spewed theories about “child-trafficking Jewish supremacists.”

These are some of the examples of hateful posts cited in a letter from the Anti-Defamation League to Facebook’s new oversight board that calls out the platform’s failure to “take sufficient action against posts, groups and users that promote antisemitism.” For each example — and the ADL says there are many more — the group said it twice reported them to Facebook, and that Facebook twice rejected requests for the antisemitic content to be removed.

“We tried to come up with a bit of a cross section of clear-cut antisemitism,” said Adam Neufeld, the vice president of the ADL’s innovation and strategy. “If Facebook is not getting these right, then they are clearly not investing or caring enough.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter, Neufeld said, is the latest in a series of ADL actions related to Facebook, including a public campaign launched last year, Stop Hate For Profit, that pressured advertisers to pause their spending on Facebook until the company commits to better fighting hate speech on the platform. The ADL has also engaged in advocacy privately with Facebook.

The letter to the oversight board may or may not kick-start change. The board could decide not to take the case ADL presented in its letter, or the board could come to a decision that does not favor the ADL’s position.

The board of 20 people selected in 2020 has been criticized for inaction after it upheld the platform’s ban on former President Donald Trump last month, but left it to the company to decide whether to make the ban permanent. Most recently, the board selected a case about coronavirus disinformation distributed by a state-level medical entity in Brazil. The oversight board has only announced 12 decisions so far.

Facebook has built a reputation as one of the mainstream social media platforms that is slowest to change. In the last few years, the platform has announced that it would ban Holocaust denial and advertisements containing disinformation about vaccines, but enforcement is lax.

“We have found that Facebook will only act when pushed up against the wall,” said Neufield. “I just think that they are a profit-seeking company that responds to a narrow set of incentives, and that unless pushed, they will not ever care about these issues as much as society needs them to.”

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