Mark Zuckerberg defends Holocaust deniers on Facebook, but finds it ‘deeply offensive’

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Mark Zuckerberg did an hour and a half interview with the Recode Decode podcast about the future of Facebook and the measures they’re taking to protect privacy and stop the dissemination of fake news. As we saw during his Congressional testimony, he has his talking points and they’re vague and not reassuring. They involve “gee this happened so fast, we used to work out of our dorm,” “we did some stuff already to stop these people, we had no idea it would get so bad” and “facebook is mostly used for good, it’s ok we’re working on it.” Mark got asked why he’s letting Infowars stay on Facebook and his answer was along the lines of “sometimes people are misinformed, we can’t censor that.” So he basically said that conspiracy theorists and Holocaust deniers were not ill-intentioned.

Yesterday, I wrote a story, which I think you read, about other publications think you give too much voice to those. “You shouldn’t have InfoWars on here.” Let’s talk about InfoWars. Let’s use them as the example. Make the case for keeping them, and make the case for not allowing them to be distributed by you.

There are really two core principles at play here. There’s giving people a voice, so that people can express their opinions. Then, there’s keeping the community safe, which I think is really important. We’re not gonna let people plan violence or attack each other or do bad things. Within this, those principles have real trade-offs and real tug on each other. In this case, we feel like our responsibility is to prevent hoaxes from going viral and being widely distributed.

The approach that we’ve taken to false news is not to say, you can’t say something wrong on the internet. I think that that would be too extreme. Everyone gets things wrong, and if we were taking down people’s accounts when they got a few things wrong, then that would be a hard world for giving people a voice and saying that you care about that. But at the same time, I think that we have a responsibility to, when you look at… if you look at the top hundred things that are going viral or getting distribution on Facebook within any given day, I do think we have a responsibility to make sure that those aren’t hoaxes and blatant misinformation.

That’s the approach that we’ve taken. We look at the things that are getting the most distribution. If people have flag them as potential hoaxes, we send those to fact-checkers who are all well reputable and have followed standard principles for fact checking, and if those fact checkers say that it is provably false, then we will significantly reduce the distribution of that content, and if someone-

So, you move them down the line rather than get rid of them?

Yeah, in News Feed.

Why don’t you wanna just say “get off our platform?”

Look, as abhorrent as some of this content can be, I do think that it gets down to this principle of giving people a voice.

Let me give you an example of where we would take it down. In Myanmar or Sri Lanka, where there’s a history of sectarian violence, similar to the tradition in the U.S. where you can’t go into a movie theater and yell “Fire!” because that creates an imminent harm.

The principles that we have on what we remove from the service are: If it’s going to result in real harm, real physical harm, or if you’re attacking individuals, then that content shouldn’t be on the platform. There’s a lot of categories of that that we can get into, but then there’s broad debate.

Okay. “Sandy Hook didn’t happen” is not a debate. It is false. You can’t just take that down?

I agree that it is false.

I also think that going to someone who is a victim of Sandy Hook and telling them, “Hey, no, you’re a liar” — that is harassment, and we actually will take that down. But overall, let’s take this whole closer to home…

I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened.

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, but I think-

In the case of the Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead.

It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent. 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.” (Update: Mark has clarified these remarks here: “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.”)

What we will do is we’ll say, “Okay, you have your page, and if you’re not trying to organize harm against someone, or attacking someone, then you can put up that content on your page, even if people might disagree with it or find it offensive.” But that doesn’t mean that we have a responsibility to make it widely distributed in News Feed. I think we, actually, to the contrary-

So you move them down? Versus, in Myanmar, where you remove it?


[From Recode]

He said they only take down content which contributes to violence. Infowars HAS contributed to violence and the proliferation of white supremacist ideas. Charlottesville was almost one year ago and that should have been enough to ban them, but that’s somehow different because it happened here in the US I guess. Zuckerberg is trying to appease these dangerous hate groups in the US and that is absolutely wrong. He’s not alone, we’ve seen the press do it too and it’s abhorrent.

Then, as follow up, Zuckerberg emailed this to the interviewer.

I enjoyed our conversation yesterday, but there’s one thing I want to clear up. I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.

Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue — but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services. If something is spreading and is rated false by fact checkers, it would lose the vast majority of its distribution in News Feed. And of course if a post crossed line into advocating for violence or hate against a particular group, it would be removed. These issues are very challenging but I believe that often the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech.

I look forward to catching up again soon.


[From Recode]

It doesn’t matter how he feels! He’s running a company that has changed the course of history and he’s giving these mealy bullsh-t explanations and vague non-solutions. Facebook still is allowing hate and lies to proliferate on their platform. Trump and Brexit happened, in part, thanks to exploitable holes in Facebook. Zuckerberg knew there was an issue for years. They may have informed the government, but they definitely didn’t tell users until years later when it blew up. He absolutely should have a different role at that company and someone who understands these complex societal issues and has a definitive plan should take over. He’s not going to step down though, he joked about it in the interview. It almost doesn’t matter if Zuckerberg keeps holding on as CEO because Facebook has such a monopoly on our social media, especially for Gen X-ers like me. They even own Instagram. I’ve tried to quit Facebook so many times and I end up missing party invitations and events and inevitably go back. (I rejoined recently after a few months’ hiatus after a friend’s wedding. Most of our social group isn’t on Instagram so I couldn’t see or share photos otherwise. I’m disappointed in myself.)

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47 Responses to “Mark Zuckerberg defends Holocaust deniers on Facebook, but finds it ‘deeply offensive’”

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  1. Melania says:

    A man who defends Holocaust deniers is a huge NO. Awful and disgusting.

  2. duchess of hazard says:

    Oh. I see.

    I mean, the way how things are going right now, I’m disappointed but not surprised.

  3. Natalie S says:

    This dolt wants to be a king maker. He’s not going to ban any group that he can utilize towards that purpose.

    • magnoliarose says:

      Exactly. ^

    • ChipnSticks says:

      What do you mean by king maker?

    • Really? says:

      He did make a private phone call to Trump after agent orange won the election as a “thank you” for spending those campaign dollars on facebook. You know, how technology makes the world a “better” place. Thanks Zuckerberg for giving America its own Hitler.

  4. Naan says:

    Not a supporter of Zuckerberg or revisionists. However read the actual article. And be very scared of the new “misinformation” buzzword and who gets to decide what is and isn’t misinformation. I don’t care for any examples of places past or present that delve into ‘ministry of information’ territory. Because Freedom of Speech.

    • Veronica S. says:

      Freedom of speech is not really applicable here. The site may have public access but it is privately owned and not subject to those Constitutional laws. The paradox of tolerance is that you must be intolerant of false or abusive voices to protect people who rely on that tolerance. The fact that Facebook and Twitter are owned mostly by wealthy white (passing) men should not be lost on anyone. The people who most ardently argue for rights to freedom of speech where hateful content is concerned are the least likely to be affected by it.

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      The Holocaust happened and deniers deny because they are anti-Semites and Nazi sympathizers, not because they are “misinformed.”

      Historians, survivors and eyewitnesses, as well as the archival evidence and surviving physical evidence (camps, gas chambers) exist. The Holocaust happened. Shutting down “deniers” has nothing to do with any kind of ministry of information or with the denial of Freedom of Speech.

      They can say whatever they want, but they don’t need to be allowed a *platform.” Facebook cannot pretend to be a “news” outlet either if it allows them to publish on its platform.

      They need to be denied a *platform.* Facebook does not need to provide them with a *platform* for hate speech. Facebook is seeking clicks and ad revenue because denial is again popular; Facebook could give a flying you-know-what about ‘freedom of speech.’ We already know they don’t care about personal privacy.

      Someone send Zuckerberg a copy of Deborah Lipstadt’s “Denying the Holocaust.” If he’s too busy testifying about his shitty company’s involvement with the 2016 election and selling stolen personal information to Cambridge Analytica, he can read her book “Denial” or watch the movie.

    • magnoliarose says:

      Denying the Holocaust is hate speech.
      The Southern Poverty Law Center had an article about how the web is being used in Europe to escape laws prohibiting Holocaust Denial and other hate speech. FB is doing the same thing.

      • Mira belle says:

        To @whoare and @magnoliarose. Agree with both of you. I’m Jewish and while there’s awful shiz going down in the world. Really? This? F*ck his platform. He’s showing what an a** he is. Deactivated my account years ago.

        (Apologies for the profanity, but don’t come for my people, or even try to trivialize it in any way)

        In Israel there’s a monument called Yad Vashem. You enter a dark space and millions of tiny light flickering for ever person that passed – including millions of non-Jews. Peace to all those who suffered or lost loved ones.
        One of the most moving things i have ever seen.

  5. Tootsie McJingle says:

    I can’t believe there are still Holocaust deniers in this day and age.

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      Hard as it is to fathom, yes there are, and they are resurgent because they have permission from the US government and other right-wing governments around the world to express their anti-Semitism.

      It is not a movement of ignorance; it is a movement of hatred.

  6. Birdix says:

    It’s a weird choice to take responsibility for lessening the impact of fake but not dangerous news (by their determination not mine). When what is distributed is behind this curtain of the algorithm, It makes them seem like they’re dodging (and not doing much) or controlling all that people see (puppet master territory).

  7. Incredulous says:

    Do things only make money if you include racist fascists et al?

  8. Kelly says:

    When I quit Facebook two years ago, everyone said, “You’ll be back.” Some people were even angry and implied I didn’t have the right to quit, that I was letting them down. Tough. I did quit, did not go back, and have never for one second missed the toxic mess. Delete your account. It will change your life.

    • Incredulous says:

      Never joined in the first place smuggitude here.

    • Anners says:

      Yep. Quitting FB was a great decision. I don’t miss it at all. Can’t be too smug, though, as I have Instagram (which is owned by FB 😕)

    • magnoliarose says:

      FB is a toxic cesspool and it becomes hard to see why anyone should support them anymore.

    • otaku fairy... says:

      I used to have a facebook account a few years ago but got rid of it. One of the reasons why I don’t want to get it back is because some people say that now, Facebook asks you for your driver’s license/state ID (creepy!), and makes you keep sending new selfies just to log into your account. Who needs that kind of drama?

      • @otaku….I’ve had FB for years, it’s how I keep up with family and we are mostly private profiles. I responded only to say I’ve had the same log in and account info since 2009 and never been asked for a drivers license or selfie…not sure where that came from.

      • Viv says:

        @talking ed, I don’t know if it’s for new accounts but they sometimes ask for an ID if they suspect your account of being faked or impersonating someone else. I have a friend who doesn’t post his full name and has been asked for an ID twice to in order to maintain his account.

    • Anika says:

      Deleted in early 2014—joined in late 2013. I hate Facebook, so glad I opted out of it, too.

    • becoo says:

      I’ve also been “clean” from Facebook since the start of 2016. Any updates I missed were from people with whom I discovered I only had a tenuous connection. That realization was sobering but ultimately helpful as I can now focus on the strong friendships that never relied on Facebook to thrive. I can’t fathom ever returning to the platform!

  9. Laura says:

    Three months ago I permenantly deleted my Facebook acoount because I found the site to be too negative and artificial. I do not miss being on social media.

    I think Mark is just as negative and artifical as his silly site 😐

  10. adastraperaspera says:

    His refusal to responsibly monitor content is indefensible! I am outraged. If a newspaper blithely printed Infowars and other racist filth, it would be shut down. His freewheeling tech bro attitude is unacceptable in a civil society, and his company practices foment violence. Also, I think he is being forced to keep operating in this way by the Russian “investors” he took on around 2013. Once you take Russian mob money, they own you.

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      Peter Thiel’s on the board, right? Conservative/libertarian, has backed all your favorite Republicans. The ultra-rich remain the ultra-rich, it doesn’t matter in what field.

      Also check out this quote:

      “Writing in Cato Unbound, the organ of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, Thiel wrote,

      …I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible… The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron.[119]”

      • adastraperaspera says:

        My god. Thiel’s viewpoint here is horrifying. I knew he was some kind of Dr. Evil, but I had no idea he had gone this far.

  11. Mel says:

    I spend minimal amount of time on FB and I’m this close to shutting the account down. He’s not making it a hard decision.

  12. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    It appears we need to revisit our long journalistic history beginning with yellow journalism in the 19th century, what happened because of it and laws that ensued. We need to study defamation (libel and slander) and begin a long judicial accountability campaign. I understand free speech, and that’s what Mark is clinging to…but not as unabashedly as he has historically. We need to collectively move towards a maturation of free speech. The internet has obviously given lunatics a very visible platform. When walking the streets and some individual is handing out pamphlets and screaming were all going to die in a horrible alien invasion, we simply walk on by. As he grows louder, he’s eventually escorted away. We need to locate and invoke that governing body that will escort away the noise through fines and prosecution. Maybe there should finally be freaking trials about moon landings, genocides, mass shootings, attacks, et al. Inciting violence on a foundation of lies is most assuredly detrimental to our society and way of life. It goes beyond free speech because it isn’t simply words when those words demand action and what’s written becomes tangible. Yes it’ll be messy. And long. And arduous. But don’t we have a responsibility to remove crazy? Haven’t the gun nuts been screaming for that all along? Well crazy starts as an idea and then it’s spoken.

  13. Betsy says:

    A quick reminder: Facebook’s data – our data – was accessed in Russia.

  14. Rapunzel says:

    Pineapple on pizza is deeply offensive. Socks with sandals are deeply offensive. The faux edginess of Justin Theroux is deeply offensive.

    Holocaust deniers are not deeply offensive. They are liars. They do not deserve a platform.

    Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to make sh*t up. And no your opinion does not have validity if it is not backed up by appropriate information. This is what’s wrong with America today. This is why we have Truth dying. People think that it’s okay to spew anything, that their opinions are valid no matter what, and that they should be respected no matter what. No no no! Your opinion is not valid if it does not have the facts behind it and if it’s not valid I don’t have to respect because it doesn’t have merit. And you should not be allowed to spout it.

    We are being way too nice about this crap. And it needs to stop.

    • Anika says:

      Agree w you completely, Rapunzel. Freedom of speech IS hugely different from the freedom to make up and publicly spread vile, harmful, hateful, bigoted lies. However, pineapple on pizza is my favorite kind, far from offensive to me… That’s ok, I love the rest of what you said!!!

    • Aren says:

      Very true. These days we’re seeing there are no consequences to lying; it’s like a new type of freedom.

  15. Suze says:

    I agree with Mark. This is what America is built in You let people talk and when no one listens it’s done. These people who deny are crazy very few listen to them. Much like the few who are pushing communism. Should they be shut down as well. The more you fight them the bigger the group gets. Because they feel that they are being persecuted. Europeans understand this that is and that is what creates true freedom. Other countries not so much. Must other countries try to shut people down. That is why people from other countries true to come to the USA and Europe for freedom of speech. The problem becomes then that iwhoever is in power decides what us the appropriate speech. A very slippery slope. American value is I disagree with you but will fight for your right to say it. If we leave that we will be just like other countries who restrict speech. Unfortunately hate speech is included.

    • detta says:

      Pushing communism and denying the Holocaust is *not* the same thing. And denying the Holocaust has nothing, really NOTHING to do with people being “misinformed”. That’s a pathetic reason to defend tolerating it. Just say that in the US there is absolute freedom of speech, so we at Facebook don’t give a crap and anything goes as long as it makes us money. At least that would be honest and not some bs excuse.

      Also this: Please be aware that, compared to the US, freedom of speech is actually not quite as absolute in Europe: In several European countries Holocaust denial is punishable by law. German authorities a few hours ago insisted – in regards to Zuckerberg’s interview – that Facebook needs to adhere to the laws here and remove/block such content.

    • detta says:

      Oh and unfortunately it is not quite working with the ‘only few listen to it’, so it will die down. I agree with you that in an ideal world that is how it should work. However, various data and figures show that over the last few years hate speech has increased quite a bit and I think we can all agree that recent developments have emboldened the radical fringes and more people listen to them instead of less. How else would you explain Trump, Brexit, the rise of right wing parties in Europe. We now live in a world where the US president goes on mad twitter rages in the early hours and cries fake news whenever it suits him, regardless of facts, and too many do listen to it and too many radicals try to rise in his wake.

    • Aang says:

      What?? Marxism is a valid economic theory that can and should be discussed by any interested party. Holocaust deniers are evil hate filled liars and have absolutely no factual evidence to support their delusions. Just a pile of lies built on millennia of antisemitism.

  16. JFerber says:

    He’s wrong on this. Dead wrong.

  17. philomena says:

    I saw a Dispatches show the other day about the content control centers that decide the stuff that stays or gets deleted on FB and now this interview. I feel like people are going out of their way to ignore the other side of this in the attempt to demonize FB. The argument of freedom of speech is so obvious – Americans seem to be just ignoring these days in the name of excessive liberal rightness.
    The moment that FB starts taking a ‘truth’ versus ‘non-truth’ basis for it’s shared content (not advertising) it’s basically signing it’s death warrant. It’s a rabbit hole it will not climb out of. The Holocaust is just the easiest example of that choice. But for every Holocaust, there will be 1000 more cases where they’ll have to make a judgement on a matter which 1 – they might even know much about and 2- where the truth really does probably lie in between black and white. It’s clear Zuckerberg, in line with AMERICAN ideals btw, wants FB to be a place where freedom of speech takes precedent. The Dispatches show I saw already make it clear just how hard it was to monitor just on a safety and content basis .
    I do think advertising is different and I think FB does as well at this point – espeically after the Russian interference. I can control whether I see some bullshit some FB friend decides to share – I have less control over what FB decides it wants to advvertise to me. So they have a repsonsibility there.