- Facebook users who have interacted with Holocaust denial content are being led to similar content via Facebook’s automated algorithms, according to a new report.
- “Using a ‘snowball’ discovery method,” a new report published by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue said, “we found that when a user follows public pages containing Holocaust denial content, Facebook actively promotes further Holocaust denial content to that user.”
- Facebook has struggled with policing hate speech and divisive content for years, and a Wall Street Journal report from earlier this year revealed that Facebook executives have allowed the issues to get worse in the interest of growth.
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Facebook has a major issue with its suggestion algorithms. According to a new report, if a Facebook user has previously interacted with Holocaust denial content, Facebook “actively promotes further Holocaust denial content to that user.”
That’s according to an August 10 report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a British think tank. The report, “Hosting the Holohoax: A Snapshot of Holocaust Denial Across Social Media,” shows that Facebook not only hosts anti-Semitic content denying that the Holocaust happened, but that it continues to present that content to users.
Using the “snowball” method on Facebook, where a user clicks suggested content based on prior activity, the report found that “when a user follows public pages containing Holocaust denial content,” Facebook actively promoted related content.
In the case of Holocaust denial content, “Facebook actively promotes further Holocaust denial content to that user.”
The report found similar Holocaust denial content available through Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube – but Facebook was the only service that actively surfaced additional related content.
The same suggestion algorithms that pushed additional Holocaust denial content are foundational to how the world’s largest social network operates. Facebook collects extremely detailed information about how how users interact with everything on the social network, and tailors itself to each user based on that information.
With well over 2 billion users, Facebook is by far the largest social network in existence. But as the service continues to grow, the company that runs it has struggled or outright refused to moderate content – a Wall Street Journal report from May revealed that executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, declined to moderate the service even when faced with evidence that its algorithms “exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness.”
Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, has previously spoken to his own struggle with moderating a subject like Holocaust denial on Facebook.
“I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive,” he told Recode in July 2018. “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.”
Facebook has long been criticised for policies that allow Holocaust denial. A 2009 article by TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington called the company “stubbornly proud” of its stance after Brian Cuban, brother of billionaire investor Mark Cuban, lambasted the company for “promoting and encouraging hatred.”
“The mere statement of denying the Holocaust is not a violation of our terms,” a Facebook spokesperson told ABC News at the time.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement after Zuckerberg’s 2018 comments that Holocaust denial is a “willful, deliberate, and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews.”
A Facebook representative shared the following statement with Business Insider:
“We take down any post that celebrates, defends, or attempts to justify the Holocaust. The same goes for any content that mocks Holocaust victims, accuses victims of lying, spews hate, or advocates for violence against Jewish people in any way. We also remove Groups and Pages that discuss Holocaust denial from recommendations and references to it in search predictions. While we do not take down content simply for being untruthful, many posts that deny the Holocaust often violate our policies against hate speech and are removed. In countries where it is illegal, such as Germany, France and Poland, this content is not allowed in accordance with the law. Striking the right balance between keeping people safe and allowing free speech is difficult and we know many people strongly disagree with our position. We are constantly developing and reviewing our policies and consulting with organisations around the world to ensure we’re getting it right.”
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