Facebook is back in the news again after its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, tried to offer a plausible explanation for why the company is not deleting some extremists’ pages. When asked about Holocaust deniers, Zuckerberg explained that Holocaust deniers aren’t “intentionally getting it wrong,” so the pages won’t be deleted from Facebook.
Zuckerberg was interviewed by Recode co-founder Kara Swisher. The interview was published Wednesday.
When asked about fake news and false information, Zuckerberg seemed to waver. “I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” Zuckerberg said. “I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, 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. I think ―”
“In the case of the Holocaust deniers, they might be,” Swisher noted, “but go ahead.”
“It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” Zuckerberg responded. “I just think, as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly. I’m sure you do. I’m sure a lot of leaders and public figures we respect do too, and I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, ‘We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times.’”
Zuckerberg seems to be making a differentiation in those who are willingly trying to deceive others and those who may just not be fully informed.
Facebook’s critics were quick to jump on the policy and the example.
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) July 18, 2018
“Holocaust denial is a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews. Facebook has a moral and ethical obligation not to allow its dissemination,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.
Holocaust denial is not a “mistake”, Mr. Zuckerberg. It has a clear purpose: negate, distort, minimize, and trivialize proven facts about the Nazi genocides against Jews, Roma, and others. The goal is to rehabilitate the racist, antisemitic, xenophobic ideology of Nazism. [1/8]
— AskHistorians (@askhistorians) July 18, 2018
So what would constitute grounds for removal? “Zuckerberg followed up on his comments to say Facebook has a removal policy for content encouraging any harm or violence,” The Huffington Post writes, “but that false news ― even viral content that makes it into the top 100 items trending on Facebook in a given day ― would only be downgraded by the platform’s algorithm so it’s seen by fewer users.”
He can keep it as a safe space for racists and the insane, and normal people can shut down their accounts and leave. https://t.co/hyg8D0RDwl
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) July 18, 2018
After the interview, Zuckerberg realized he needed to engage in some damage control. He sent an email to Recode.
“I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” it read.