Facebook bars some Holocaust deniers, but allows others to remain

PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA – Facebook has removed two groups which deny the Holocaust from its site on the grounds that they were being used as a forum to promote hate – but allowed others to remain.

The two sites – ‘Based on the facts… There was no Holocaust’ and ‘Holocaust is a Holohoax’ – are not the only Holocaust denial groups on the social networking site. Three others are still there, Facebook saying merely that it will be monitoring their activities closely.

The call to remove the groups came last week from attorney Brian Cuban, who pointed out that Holocaust denial was illegal in some countries in which Facebook has a presence.

Facebook says that merely banning them in those countries is enough. “Homosexual content is illegal in some countries, but that does not mean it should be removed from Facebook,” said a spokesperson. “We have recently begun to block content by IP in countries where that content is illegal, including Nazi-related and holocaust denial content in certain European countries.”

Now, though, by banning two of these groups altogether while letting others remain, Facebook has raised a thorny semantic problem. It is making a distinction between the groups on the basis of whether they promote hate or merely express ideas. “We are sensitive to groups that threaten violence towards people and these groups are taken down. We also remove groups that express hatred towards individuals and groups that are sponsored by recognized terrorist organizations. We do not, however, take down groups that speak out against countries, political entities, or ideas,” said the spokesperson.

It’s not the first time that policing websotes has landed Facebook in trouble. While the company likes to position itself as a champion of free speech, it recently took the decision to remove pictures of breastfeeding women on the grounds that they were pornographic.