Facebook is among the worst social services at curbing Holocaust denial, ADL says

January 27, 2021, 5:00 AM UTC

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Facebook is among the worst social media services when it comes to combating Holocaust denial, according to a new report. 

The Anti-Defamation League graded 10 social networking services based on their policies against Holocaust denial and whether enforcement of those policies is effective.

Facebook (along with Instagram), Reddit, gaming chat service Discord, and gaming service Steam received Ds, while Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and gaming service Roblox all earned Cs. Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming service for gamers, received the best grade—a B. 

“While some platforms have finally stepped up their efforts to stop the amplification of denial, others are still struggling to address anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial effectively,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL. “This is truly shameful at a time when anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are spreading globally, some outrageously based on the big lie that the Holocaust never happened.”

The grades come after major platforms like Facebook and Twitter recently began removing posts denying the Holocaust under their hate speech policies. But the problem persists, attracting the attention of lawmakers and regulators, who are concerned about it leading to real-world violence. 

The ADL’s report card placed more weight on enforcement than policies, which led to Facebook’s near-failing grade. Facebook was the only service among the 10 that suggested a majority of the content flagged to it by the ADL did not violate its rules.

The ADL also found that Holocaust denial was easy to find on Facebook, similar to Twitter, Discord, Reddit, and Steam. 

For example, the ADL found a video posted in 2016 on Facebook that features Brother Nathanael Kapner, a self-proclaimed former Jew turned Orthodox Christian, making comments that deny the Holocaust, including that there were no gas chambers. That video is no longer on Facebook.

And on Instagram, a post from Aug. 12, 2020, from a user named f.e_painter doubts the death of 6 million Jews. The user posted: “Holocaust story is a lie #holocaustisalie.” The post was removed following the ADL report.

Facebook spokesperson Dani Lever responded to the ADL’s grade with the following statement: “We don’t agree,” she said. “We’ve made major progress in fighting Holocaust denial on Facebook by implementing a new policy prohibiting it and enforcing against these hateful lies in every country around the world.”

Lever also pointed to Facebook’s latest effort to combat Holocaust denial on its service. Beginning Wednesday, Facebook users who search for terms associated with either the Holocaust or Holocaust denial will see a message pointing them to AboutHolocaust.org, an informational site created by the World Jewish Congress.

Twitter, which doesn’t have an explicit policy prohibiting Holocaust denial, but bans hate speech, and Twitch were the only services of the 10 to take immediate action on posts that were flagged by users working with the ADL, the report said. Holocaust denial was also difficult to find on Twitch, the ADL found. 

The ADL offered several recommendations for social networking services to improve how they handle Holocaust denial.

  • Tech companies should devote sufficient resources, both human moderators and artificial intelligence systems, to enforce their Holocaust denial policies broadly and efficiently.
  • Companies should find experts when drafting content moderation guidelines and training moderators. 
  • Services should be transparent with users about how they decide on which posts they remove as well as the policy that guided those decisions.
  • Companies should make product changes that prioritize safety over engaging users on their services.

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