Facebook firm on Holocaust denial pages, despite survivors’ letter

NEW YORK (JTA) – Facebook, citing free speech, has rejected a request by Holocaust survivors to remove some pages that espouse Holocaust denial.

“We think it’s important to maintain consistency in our policies, which don’t generally prohibit people from making statements about historical events, no matter how ignorant the statement or how awful the event,” the popular social networking site said in response to a letter from Holocaust survivors dated July 8.

Survivors and relatives of Holocaust victims wrote Facebook asking that the site change its policies permitting Holocaust denial before their aging generation is gone. The 21 survivors who signed the letter listed their concentration camps, ghettos and other Holocaust experiences below their names.

“We, the undersigned, are Holocaust Survivors who saw our parents, children and loved ones brutally murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust,” the letter begins. “We are writing to you to protest Facebook’s policy that categorizes Holocaust denial as ‘free speech,’ rather than the shameless, cynical, and hateful propaganda that it is.”

The letter goes on to point out that not only are the Holocaust-denial sites offensive and hateful, but also could negatively influence scores of people due to Facebook’s popularity and accessibility.

“By allowing this hate propaganda on Facebook, you are exposing the public and, in particular, youth to the anti-Semitism which fueled the Holocaust,” it says.

The survivors who signed the letter are volunteers at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles who speak there and at its Museum of Tolerance.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean, criticized Facebook’s policy on Holocaust denial.

"A review of denial sites currently active on Facebook confirms that it is not mere speech but that it constitutes at its core a platform for bigotry and hatred of Jews, dead and alive," said Cooper, who briefs online companies such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo on digital hate and terrorism.

He added, “We will continue to urge Facebook officials to reflect on the pain and suffering their policy is causing victims of the Shoah. For these aging heroes, every posting by deniers labels them, not victims of history’s greatest crime, but liars and thieves.”  

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