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Despite Zuckerberg’s comments on Holocaust denial, Facebook removes content after Lawfare Project pursues legal action

Last week, Facebook CEO  Mark Zuckerberg said his platform would not remove content denying the Holocaust, but that the content would be less likely to show up in someone’s news feed.

The Lawfare Project filed takedown notices this week against Facebook posts denying the Holocaust and containing anti-Semitic material, successfully leading to several posts being removed or blocked by Facebook in a number of countries.

The Lawfare Project’s action followed controversial comments last week by Zuckerberg in which he condoned the presence of Holocaust denial content on the platform, saying, “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.”

The Lawfare Project’s Spanish counsel, Ignacio Wenley Palacios, set out to demonstrate that Facebook’s takedown policy is inconsistent. In several European countries, Holocaust denial violates both criminal and civil law, and is considered libel against the Jewish people. Holocaust denial is the claim that the Holocaust—the Nazi genocide of millions of Jews during World War II—never happened or that the number of Jews murdered is greatly exaggerated.

Facebook’s current takedown policy, enforced by algorithms and people manually reviewing content, does not permit content that violates a wide variety of hate speech including “anything that directly attacks people based on what are known as their ‘protected characteristics’—race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, or serious disability or disease.” In contrast to Holocaust denial, much of this hate speech is legal.

Brooke Goldstein, executive eirector of The Lawfare Project, said:

“Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that Holocaust deniers are not ‘intentionally getting it wrong’ contradicts the findings of historians, sociologists and mainstream political figures, who categorize Holocaust denial as a form of anti-Semitism. Facebook bans hate speech that attacks groups based on ethnicity or religious affiliation, so statements should be removed if they attack the Jewish people, an ethno-religious group. In countries such as Spain, where Holocaust denial violates civil and criminal law, we will continue taking action to get it removed.”

The Lawfare Project’s Spanish counsel, Ignacio Wenley Palacios, said:

“In just two days, takedown notices filed online have resulted in the removal of several anti-Semitic posts containing Holocaust denial, abusive content, or racism. Whenever we find blatant Holocaust denial that Facebook refuses to remove, we will file legal proceedings to ensure that Facebook does not follow Mr. Zuckerberg’s stated approach.”

(Headquartered in New York, The Lawfare Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is a legal think tank and litigation fund committed to protecting the civil and human rights of Jewish communities around the world.)