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Facebook refuses to censor Holocaust denial

July 27, 2018

Social media sites have published the results of a new German law hoping to clamp down on hate speech. However, a UK media investigation found that that Facebook does not delete posts containing Holocaust denial content.

Facebook logo on a smartphone screen
Image: picture alliance/dpa/F. Sommer

It's been more than six months since Germany's then-Justice Minister Heiko Maas introduced the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), aimed at curbing hate speech and fake news on social media. On Friday, Youtube and Facebook published the results of the new law on content deletion – numbers that are less than confidence-inspiring.

On top of that, an independent investigation from the UK has highlighted that Facebook does not seem to include Holocaust denial in its hate speech standards.

According to YouTube's report, it has already received 215,000 complaints about videos that users believe violates the rules over incitement to violence, political extremism, and person injury. The company's reviewers found that about 27 percent, or 58,000 of those were justified complaints.

YouTube claims that most videos are deleted within 24 hours of receiving the complaint, and take at most a week to remove.

Facebook, which studies have found to be the most common platform for spreading fake news, said it had only received 1,704 complaints. Of those, about 362 had been deleted or geoblocked in Germany.

But as Der Spiegel pointed out, Facebook has made the mechanism for reporting content that violates the NetzDG much more difficult to find than its button for a complaint that a post violates its self-written community standards.

And as for those community standards, antisemitism and Holocaust denial do not seem to be a problem the social media giant takes seriously.

Facebook: Holocaust denial won't be censored

An investigation by UK newspaper The Times found that despite reporting posts that promote the idea that the murder of 17 million people was a hoax, they were not taken down by Facebook's censors.

"Cartoons that depict Jewish people as hook-nosed cockroaches, links to a website selling 'holohoax' books banned by mainstream retailers and fan pages for a convicted Holocaust denier are also accessible," the paper wrote.

While antisemitism is listed under Facebook's community standards, Holocaust denial is not.

The investigation comes just days after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, himself Jewish, was blasted by rights groups in both Germany and the US for saying he would not target Holocaust deniers despite finding them "deeply offensive."

"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," he told tech news website Recode.

Germany's Justice Minister Katarina Barley slammed Zuckerberg's comments: "There must be no place for antisemitism. This includes verbal and physical attacks on Jews as well as the denial of the Holocaust."

Both Facebook and Twitter have had their shares plunge by unpredecented amounts amidst the news that they would not censor certain forms of hate speech.

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.