The last 7 days have seen much debate on the issue of Holocaust Denial Groups on Facebook. There has been a lot of focus on the issues of free speech, open discussion of controversial issues and Facebook Terms Of Service(TOS).
While I have made it clear that I would like to see these groups removed, I have done a poor job in articulating why. I attempted to take a short-sighted, back door “lawyer’s approach” with Facebook by alleging that Holocaust Denial was illegal in other countries and, therefore, a violation of Facebook TOS. While at the time, these were legitimate issues, I should have focused on the real issue. The issue of the proliferation of Facebook groups that promote hatred of religious and ethnics groups and the hate speech those groups perpetrate. While you may have your doubts, I submit that this includes those who promote the fringe revisionist theory of Holocaust Denial.
The Holocaust Denial movement is nothing more than a pretext to allow the preaching of hatred against Jews and to recruit other like minded individuals to do the same. Allowing these groups to flourish on Facebook under the guise of “open discussion” does nothing more than help spread their message of hate. Is this the kind of open discussion that Facebook wants to encourage? Is this really where you want to draw your line?
It is undisputed that as a collective , Holocaust Deniers are overwhelmingly antisemitic. One cannot be separated from the other. They use a fringe, discredited historical theory as a pretext and rallying point to perpetrate and promote their message of hate using Facebook as recruiting ground. By allowing these groups whether they number 1 or 1000, Facebook is not promoting open discussion of a controversial issue. It is promoting and encouraging hatred towards ethnic and religious groups, nothing more.
By claiming open discussion as the rationale for allowing these groups to exist, Facebook is playing games with semantics. Facebook is taking form over substance to protect their imaginary subjective corporate line in the sand they have drawn.
If Facebook is serious about encouraging open discourse on controversial subjects, let’s start with Facebook itself. Let’s talk about the controversial decision to allow Holocaust Denial groups. Let’s talk about transparency. Sending out canned email answers or spouting canned corporate-speak in an interview is not transparent. I would like to see transparency on the specifics of how Facebook went about arriving at this controversial decision. I would like you to address the following questions:
In a CNN interview, Facebook representative Barry Schnitt stated:
“It’s a difficult decision to make. We have a lot of internal debate and we bring in experts to talk about it,” Schnitt said. “Just being offensive or objectionable doesn’t get it taken off Facebook. We want it [the site] to be a place where people can discuss all kinds of ideas, including controversial ones.”
Mark, I would like to know who at Facebook was involved in the “internal debate” that resulted in the decision that Holocaust Denial does not constitute hate speech. Were you involved? Do you offer any input in these types of discussions? How does Facebook define “internal debate”? How many people were involved? What was their expertise to discuss this issue? Did they bring their personal beliefs to the table? What safeguards were employed to ensure objectivity in a decision that is innately subjective? Were attorneys consulted that have experience in such matters or was it general counsel? Do you agree that something can be legal but still constitute hate speech? Was the final decision yours? Did the buck stop with you?
I would also like to know what experts were consulted on this issue. Were any Holocaust Denial experts consulted? Were any experts on antisemitism consulted? Were any hate speech experts in general consulted? If so, I would appreciate it if you would identify these experts spoken of by Barry Schnitt in his CNN interview.
Finally, Mark, in an interview for the CNET blog “Technically Incorrect”, Barry Schnitt stated:
“One thing to consider that someone actually mentioned in the thread was the idea that there may be a benefit to having these ideas discussed in the open. Would we rather Holocaust denial was discussed behind closed doors or quietly propagated by anonymous sources? Or would we rather it was discussed in the open on Facebook where people’s real names and their photo is associated with it for their friends, peers, and colleagues to see?”
Is this an official corporate statement from Facebook on how Holocaust Denial should be addressed in society? What kind of open discussion was Mr. Schnitt talking about? How was he defining “open discussion”? How does Facebook define “open discussion”? What experts did Facebook consult in coming to the conclusion that “open discussion” was the most appropriate way to deal with this subject? Are you aware of the Jewish/Holocaust historical significance of such a statement Mark? I sent an email to Facebook asking for clarification of his statement but received no response other than the canned ,”we received your email”.
Mark, I hope you will take the time to respond to these important questions and issues, not just with regards to the Holocaust Denial issue, but with regards to transparency in how Facebook subjectively comes to these types of decisions in general.
©2009 Brian Cuban
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