Facebook under fire over Holocaust denial on platform

Safya Khan-Ruf - 07 02 18

The comedian and novelist urged Facebook to do more to tackle antisemitism online and said he receives up to 300 social media messages a day which he could theoretically bring to the police’s attention.

Baddiel was part of an All Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism, which included Labour MP Preet Gill, Palant, Crown Prosecution Service director of prosecution policy and inclusion, Baljit Ubhey, and the Community Security Trust’s head of policy Dave Rich.

Baddiel asked why the social media company could take down posts containing nudity but not those denying the Holocaust.

“You are suggesting that nudity is more offensive than Holocaust denial,” he told Karim Palant, Facebook’s UK public policy manager.

Courtesy of CST/Twitter

The event was organised by the Antisemitism Policy Trust and introduced by MP John Mann, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

The discussion centred around the balance between free speech and hate speech. Several panellists and audience members called on Facebook to take antisemitism and other forms of hate on the platform more seriously.

Laura Marks, chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said Facebook was “well positioned to do something” about abuse on its platform.

However Palant, who said he was the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, called for a greater debate in society about the issue. “I’m not sure that I would rely on a private company to say ‘that’s OK’ and ‘that’s not OK’. I would rely on society as a whole to define that.”

He acknowledged that Facebook had to have “systems in place to get the bad stuff taken down” and added that the social media company had doubled the number of staff members employed to investigate reports of abuse and was investing heavily in artificial intelligence aimed at identifying hate speech.

Rich said: “I don’t think we are asking Facebook and other platforms to be the ultimate arbiter of free speech. Facebook has the power to say it does not want Holocaust denial on its platform.”

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, cited an example of a woman’s Facebook account being suspended when she tried to debate Holocaust deniers on Facebook by posting images of concentration camps.

Ubhey also described the high threshold needed to take action against hate speech and how context was important in each case.


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