Facebook moves to ban Holocaust-denying content

The decision was precipitated by an antisemitic meme spread in 2020.

By DIon J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

Meta’s Oversight Board reversed a company decision to allow Holocaust denial content on its platforms which include Facebook and Instagram just days ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, drawing praise from leading Jewish civil rights groups.

In a statement, Meta’s Oversight Board, an independent body created in 2020, said the “prohibition is consistent with Meta’s human right’s responsibilities” and that “it is important to understand Holocaust denial as an element of antisemitism, which is discriminatory in its consequences.”

The decision was precipitated by an antisemitic meme spread in 2020 featuring Squidward Tentacles — a recurring character in the SpongeBob Squarepants animated.

Titled, “Fun Facts About the Holocaust,” the meme spread conspiracies about the Holocaust, denying that 6 million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany and that Jews were burned at Auschwitz. Despite being the subject of several complaints and being reviewed by, in the company’s words, “two human reviewers,” Meta initially ruled that the meme did not violate its content policies — often referred to as “community standards” — on hate speech and transferred the matter to the Oversight Board.

“The Board finds that this content violates Meta’s Hate Speech Community Standard, which prohibits Holocaust denial on Facebook and Instagram,” the company said on Tuesday. “Experts consulted by the Board confirmed that all the post’s claims about the Holocaust were either blatantly untrue or misrepresented historical facts. Additionally, the board is concerned that Meta did not remove this content even after the company changed its policies to explicitly prohibit Holocaust denial, despite human and automated reviews.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), a Jewish human rights organization, praised the decision.

Commenting to The Algemeiner about Meta’s announcement on Wednesday, SWC’s Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Rabbi Abraham Cooper said it was “better late than never,” explaining that he and SCW founder Rabbi Marvin Heir had stressed to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in private conversations why the “Squidward” meme and all Holocaust denial content is distressing and offensive to the Jewish community.

“It took tremendous pressure and years to get them to do this,” Abraham said. “We welcome the announcement on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, and we hope that they are taking the necessary steps to make sure that hate groups and terrorists do not take advantage of their technology.”

Read  Ex-Lyft driver facing 10-Year prison sentence for attacking Jewish passenger

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a nonprofit that has litigated numerous civil rights complaints and fought to eradicate antisemitism from public life, applauded Meta’s decision, citing its own counsel to Meta on the matter during a public comment period.

“We commend Meta’s Oversight Board for recognizing the inexorable logic that using anti-Semitic [sic] conspiracy theories to attempt to falsely deny mass atrocities conclusively proven in court and admitted by the perpetrators is anti-Semitic, and consequently falls within Meta’s hat speech policy,” the group said.

Meta’s platforms have been plagued with antisemitic content over the past three years, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic and Israel’s 2021 war with Hamas.