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Facebook in fresh controversy over Holocaust denial

  • Published at 10:57 pm July 20th, 2018
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In this file photo taken on October 15, 2017, two men walk past a new piece of graffiti depicting Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the controversial Israeli barrier separating the West Bank town of Bethlehem from Jerusalem AFP

'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. I don't think that they're intentionally getting it wrong'

Facebook found itself embroiled anew in controversy Thursday after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg argued the leading social network should not filter out posts denying the Holocaust.

The comments by Zuckerberg drew fierce criticism and appeared to undermine Facebook's latest effort to root out hate speech, violence and misinformation on its platform.

In an interview with tech website Recode on Wednesday, Zuckerberg said that while Facebook was dedicated to stopping the spread of fake news, it would not filter out posts just on the basis of being factually wrong -- including from Holocaust deniers and the conspiracy theory website Infowars.

"I'm Jewish, and there's a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened," he said in the interview.

"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. I don't think that they're intentionally getting it wrong."

Critics quickly lashed out at Zuckerberg over the comments, saying these kinds of comments can incite hatred and violence.

"Holocaust denial is the quintessential 'fake news,'" said Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a rights group named for a famed Nazi hunter.

"The Nazi Holocaust is the most documented atrocity in history, allowing the canard of Holocaust denial to be posted on Facebook, or any other social media platform cannot be justified in the name of 'free exchange of ideas.'"

Zeynep Tufekci, a University of North Carolina professor who follows social media said on Twitter: "Harder to find a group of people more *intentional* about "denying" an atrocity in order to pave the way for more violence than holocaust-deniers."

Zuckerberg later emailed Recode to clarify his comments, stating that if something is spreading and rated as false by the site's fact checkers, "it would lose the vast majority of its distribution" on user feeds and that "if a post crossed line into advocating for violence or hate against a particular group, it would be removed."