Survivors appeal to Facebook to remove Holocaust denial posts

Well-known survivors of the Holocaust from around the world began a new online campaign to urge Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to remove Holocaust denial posts from the social media platform.

The campaign was organized by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), which advocates and secures compensation and social services funding for Holocaust survivors around the world. In the first-ever digital campaign driven by Holocaust survivors, the message to Zuckerberg will be “Holocaust denial posts on Facebook are hate speech and must be removed!”

Beginning July 29, each day – every day – a recorded message from the final generation of Holocaust survivors to Zuckerberg will be posted on Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook) and other social media platforms, such as Twitter.

“They are calling us liars,” one survivor will say in a recorded message. “We aren’t liars. We are witnesses.”

While there have been many calls and efforts to remove hate speech from Facebook, Holocaust denial has not been removed because Zuckerberg refuses to classify it as hate speech. The Claims Conference has argued that Holocaust denial is intentional and therefore a violation of Facebook’s own community standards.

In 2018, Paul Packer, chairman of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, confronted Facebook leadership over Zuckerberg’s statement that he opposed banning Holocaust denial from the social media platform.

In this new campaign, notable survivors include Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, Anne Frank’s stepsister Eve Schloss, Kristallnacht survivor Charlotte Knobloch and Auschwitz survivor Roman Kent, the head of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

“Most of my family was murdered, as well as many of my friends,” said Kent in his recorded message to Zuckerberg. “You must know that Holocaust denial is nothing short of hate dialogue. There is no denying it.”

Schloss, who lives in the UK, said in her message: “I was born in Vienna and had to flee from the Nazis. I ended up in Holland where I was arrested with my whole family and sent to Auschwitz death camp. There, only my mother and I survived. I lost all my family. Many, many family members. There is no denying it! Remove Holocaust denial from Facebook.”

Claims Conference president Gideon Taylor wrote in an op-ed on his Facebook page that he has asked Zuckerberg to meet with Holocaust survivors to hear directly from them how painful it is for them that one of the world’s leading companies hosts Holocaust deniers. In 2018, Holocaust survivors posted an open letter to Zuckerberg explaining the deep hurt that Holocaust denial brings to those who suffered the worst of humanity during the Holocaust and survived. As a result of the video posted on the Claims Conference Facebook page, a meeting was held at Facebook headquarters.

“Lip service was paid, but unfortunately, no action was taken and Holocaust deniers continue to enjoy uninterrupted platforms spreading their hateful rhetoric,” Taylor lamented. “Holocaust denial is not ignorance or a lack of education – it is an intentional, woeful  act of hatred. The attempted extermination of Jews from Europe is one of the most researched and well-documented historical atrocities of our collective human history, supported by first-hand testimonies from Jews, historians and the Nazis themselves.

Holocaust denial is antisemitic and only serves to generate more hatred. More importantly, antisemitism is hate speech, intended to incite violence and inflict emotional distress, and therefore, is a violation of Facebook’s own community standards and poorly enforced hate speech policies.”

A Facebook spokesperson in Israel responded that the company takes the fight against antisemitism incredibly seriously and stands together with Holocaust survivors. She said the company does take down any post that celebrates, defends or attempts to justify the Holocaust, and the same goes for any content that mocks Holocaust victims, accuses victims of lying about the atrocities, or advocates for violence against Jewish people in any way.

In countries where Holocaust denial is illegal, Facebook restricts access to this content.

“While we object to many ideas expressed on Facebook, including those who deny facts about the Holocaust, we do not remove content from Facebook simply for being false,” the spokesperson said. “We recognize this means that sometimes people are permitted to post material that runs counter to historical and factual evidence. However, we believe Facebook provides a platform that enables the community to confront and counter falsehoods which serves to combat lies, ignorance, and deception. Holocaust remembrance and education is important and that is why we work with many nonprofits and institutions to help them confront and counter these falsehoods.”

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