Facebook is apparently done talking about Holocaust denial for now. A couple of groups that got more out of hand than the rest were taken down, but the company’s policy of permitting the groups on the site remains. “Denying the holocaust is not a violation of our terms,” says Facebook spokesperson Barry Schnitt in a comment to our post yesterday. Meanwhile, Facebook’s ban on pictures showing nipples from breast feeding women remains. The pictures are pornography and a violation of Facebook’s terms of service. Interestingly, Schnitt is the spokesperson that handles both issues, and seems quite comfortable with the respective policies.
While we don’t have much officially being said, we do have some Facebook employees speaking their mind directly, and most are pro-Holocaust deniers. Product Manager Ezra Callahan describes the posts by Brian Cuban and myself as “incomprehensible reasoning.” Ezra is not a Facebook spokesperson, but Randi Zuckerberg, who is a Facebook Spokesperson, says of Ezra’s note “Really well-written, articulate, and insightful note by Facebook employee Ezra Callahan on being a Jewish employee and supporting Facebook’s policy to not remove groups that deny the Holocaust.” That sounds like a stamp of approval to me.
Ezra’s arguments in a nutshell:
- Facebook is a “company run by a prominent Jew” and can’t “possibly show preferential treatment to one offended group over others”
- The Holocaust is just one of many human tragedies: “There are quite a few other especially-horrifying events in humanity’s recent past that likely merit the same level of consideration”
- Providing a forum for Holocaust deniers lets people see how “stupid” they are
Here’s where I’m going to take a ninety degree turn. I’m not going to address these issues head on. Brian Cuban is doing that already, and provides logical counterpoints to these arguments.
But I actually think even engaging in this debate is dangerous. The Holocaust is in its own special category of fucked up human behavior. Not because of the millions of Jews that were killed in the actual Holocaust – sadly that’s just how we roll as a race. No, the problem is that Holocaust deniers make their arguments for one simple purpose – they want to finish what was started and wipe Jews off the planet. We all know this is the elephant in the room, it’s just that the lawyers who write terms of service don’t really know how to deal with that. Nipples are bad, even if clearly not posted for sexual reasons. Holocaust denial is ok, even if clearly posted in order to spread hatred of Jews. That’s not something lawyers can tackle.
I don’t make that statement lightly, nor do I expect everyone to agree. But in the last few days I’ve read a lot (a whole lot) of Holocaust denial literature on the Internet, and it is extremely scary stuff. The whole point of it is to suggest that Jews are engaged in a massive conspiracy to fool the world. These are the same types of conspiracy theories that led to the Holocaust in the first place.
When you engage with Holocaust deniers to talk about where the lines are drawn you’ve already lost. Ezra and the rest of Facebook is playing the game on their terms.
Holocaust denial is a seed. A seed that will grow into a fully bloomed second Holocaust if ever allowed to germinate. And Facebook is providing the fertile ground and watering needed to do just that.
That’s why a dozen or so countries, all of which otherwise support free speech, have enacted laws against Holocaust denial. People love to hate, even smart people with significantly more than a “shred of common sense” as Ezra puts it. So many smart people think there is a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. They can’t help but believe it. And giving those people a place on Facebook to share and expand those ideas is just too dangerous a thing to do. They know they can spread hatred of Jews if they stick mostly to just denying the Holocaust. And if a few members get out of hand every once in a while, they can just say that the group exists only to talk about whether the Holocaust happened or not, and certainly not to spread hate. See the images on my post from yesterday to see how these messages go.
Sure, we can’t shut down the dark places on the Internet where people are free to hate Jews and post pictures of breast feeding mothers. But Facebook can take a stand and say it won’t happen in their back yard. Holocaust denial is hate speech, and it cannot be given a place to take root.
This isn’t a slippery slope, Facebook. It’s evil. Pure evil. Don’t plant a flag on the wrong side of the line. Stand firm against racial and religious hatred, even if you don’t have to. You’ll look back in fifty years and be proud that you did. Because no matter what your terms of service say, this isn’t porn. It’s the Holocaust. And it happened.