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Facebook still failing to remove Holocaust denialism, new ADL report finds

Facebook continues to allow individuals and some groups to share Holocaust denial content, despite a policy change last year aimed at targeting this issue, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League released Wednesday.

The organization offered examples that include a link to a video titled, “Holocaust Lies Exposed” and “Mainstream Holocaust Narrative ‘Substantially, if not Entirely, False,” along with a meme that falsely attributed a quote to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos saying, “I deny that the Holocaust can withstand critical scrutiny.”

“This offensive content causes pain and harm for Jews,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL chief, said in a statement. “Holocaust denialism is hate speech.”

Facebook had long categorized Holocaust denial as “misinformation,” leading to odd cases like the company placing a “False Information” label over an article shared on the platform that claimed the Red Cross had deemed the Holocaust “a hoax.” Facebook still allowed people to click on the article, but also offered them a link to an “independent fact-checker” who had debunked the claim.

Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, defended the company’s decision to allow content that denied the Holocaust in 2018. He told the publication Recode that he found Holocaust denial “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,” he said.

Yet last October, following pressure from the ADL and other groups, the company updated its hate speech policy to “prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.” Despite that policy change, which the ADL applauded, the organization found that Holocaust deniers like Michael Santomauro and Thomas Dalton are still active on the platform and that while Facebook removed groups exclusively dedicated to discussing Holocaust denial, similar content persists in groups focused on conspiracy theories generally.

For example, one post shared in a group called “Conspiracy Research” included a meme with false information claiming to debunk the Holocuast with the caption, “Holocaust didn’t happen. Thank you for your time.”

The ADL’s Center on Extremism reported nine posts containing Holocaust denial on November 15. Wednesday’s report noted that they only received a reply to one of those incidents in which Facebook determined that a post calling the Holocaust a fraud was not found to violate the company’s policies.

In a statement to the Forward Wednesday, the company said it had since removed all the posts mentioned in the ADL report and had made “substantial progress in fighting Holocaust denial on Facebook.”

In a blog post announcing the new policy banning Holocaust denial last October, Monika Bickert, vice president of content policy, said that implementing the new rules would take time.

“Enforcement of these policies cannot happen overnight,” Bickert wrote. “There is a range of content that can violate these policies, and it will take some time to train our reviewers and systems on enforcement.”

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