Dozens of Holocaust experts have demanded a meeting with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg over the network’s alleged failure to remove anti-Semitic material.
In an open letter sent to Zuckerberg, the heads of 24 global institutions demanded action after he said posts about Holocaust denial would not automatically be removed from the platform because it could be someone merely getting the facts wrong.
Facebook has, however, stated: “We take the issue of anti-Semitism and any form of hate speech incredibly seriously, and find it deeply offensive.”
Signatories on the letter include Diane Lee, director general of Imperial War Museums UK; Professor Peter Schäfer, director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin and Henry Grunwald, chairman of the UK National Holocaust Centre and Museum.
The letter states: “We also salute your recognition that there may be varying kinds of intent in the hearts and minds of those who post such views on Facebook - including those you were quoted as saying may innocently be ‘getting a few things wrong’.
“Yet Facebook must not allow complete and utter falsehoods about the Holocaust, and about the Jewish people, to go systematically unchecked. Virulent anti-Semitism is a proven pathway that leads from rhetorical hatred to actions of violence.”
The letter goes on to offer Facebook help to “protect society against one of the longest and darkest hatreds which, in the space of just three generations, is seriously beginning to threaten it once again”.
The group behind the letter has offered to provide the social media giant with “tangible, rapidly executable steps towards becoming part of the solution”, by sharing educational resources and professional development programmes for educators on Facebook “to give them resources, skills and confidence to tackle hate and prejudice, and to teach empathy, understanding and respect”.
The letter comes after Bognor Regis town councillor Damien Enticott was suspended from the Labour Party late last month after a post appeared on his Facebook page calling Talmud Jews “parasites”.
The Times also revealed last month how posts claiming that the Holocaust is a lie and that Jewish people are “barbaric and unsanitary” were not removed by Facebook even though they had been reported as offensive.
The newspaper reported that despite Facebook’s assurance that anti-Semitic material was being reviewed, many posts – including a cartoon depicting Jewish people as sex traffickers and war criminals – remained online on Monday.
The full letter reads:
Dear Mr Zuckerberg
HOLOCAUST DENIAL: ACTION PLAN FOR FACEBOOK
We write with an offer of help in these troubled times, and specifically in relation to the attached story run by The Times of London on Friday July 27, 2018.
We sympathise with your stated desire to bolster freedom of speech, even to those whose views you personally find abhorrent.
We also salute your recognition that there may be varying kinds of intent in the hearts and minds of those who post such views on Facebook - including those you were quoted as saying may innocently be “getting a few things wrong”.
Yet Facebook must not allow complete and utter falsehoods about the Holocaust, and about the Jewish people, to go systematically unchecked.
Virulent antisemitism is a proven pathway that leads from rhetorical hatred to actions of violence. Freedom of speech laws are not a reason to do nothing — inaction is always the opportunity for evil to flourish.
All genocide starts with distortion of the truth and prejudice. Ignorance and lack of education permit this and, according to the Antidefamation League, are the dominant source of antisemitic views. We cannot ignore the rising number of violent antisemitic attacks in the UK, France and other European countries.
In the UK alone, The Guardian newspaper reported a 34% rise in 2017 in violent assaults against Jewish people, and the number has risen again in 2018.
No society can afford to ignore, hide or bury antisemitism if it wishes to remain civilised.
History proves that it is the canary in the coal mine; the first unravelling of a society’s moral fabric. During World War II, it was the first rung on the ladder of prejudice and discrimination that led to genocide — first against Jews and then other groups including political opponents, homosexuals, Roma and Sinti people. Hatred of one group within society leads to hatred of others.
Since Facebook runs across the national borders which constitute society, we beseech you to work with us to protect society against one of the longest and darkest hatreds which, in the space of just three generations, is seriously beginning to threaten it once again.
We offer you tangible, rapidly executable steps towards Facebook becoming part of the solution. We can deliver proven educational resources in multiple languages, ready for digital deployment with Facebook — important as you may wish to break the task down by different jurisdictions with differ-ent laws.
We can offer cost-free professional development programs for educators on Facebook to give them resources, skills and confidence to tackle hate and prejudice, and to teach empathy, un-derstanding and respect. And we have thousands of shareable stories that reveal the personal dimension of hate-based violence and the inspiring people who have stood up against it — some in interactive format.