Petition update. The petition has been sent to Facebook and the major Facebook shareholders along with the covering letter as follows:
To: Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder of Facebook, and all Shareholders:
We are asking that you change your current policy which allows holocaust denial pages and groups on Facebook. We believe that holocaust denial is a form of hate speech. Therefore we request that you put algorithms in place which automatically weed out these pages in the first instance.
In support of our request, we created and circulated a Care2 and Change.org Petition. We have a total of 10, 306 signatures on both petitions combined. (We have 5327 signatures on the Change.org petition, and 4979 signatures on the Care2 petition). We also created a like page on Facebook, entitled “Sign Petitions to Ban Holocaust Denial on Social Media as Hate Speech.” At present over 22,000 people have liked the page.
We also created a closed Facebook group to empower our members who are devoted to this cause. At present the closed group has 602 members. The name of the group is “Ban ALL Holocaust Denial Pages and Groups from Facebook.”
We are aware that other petitions have recently been submitted to Facebook which address the issue of anti-Semitism on a broader basis. Please note that our petition drive is focused solely on the issue of holocaust denial pages and groups on Facebook.
There are three attachments-enclosures which are referenced at the end of this letter. The Care2 and the Change.org petitions are attached. Also attached is a Zip-File which contains screenshots of posts from a Facebook holocaust denial group.
Our endorsements are listed at the end of this letter.
I . Why Holocaust Denial pages and groups should not be allowed on Facebook.
A. Holocaust Denial is Hate Speech.
Facebook has allowed holocaust denial groups and pages on its site under the guise of the ‘speech clause’ of the first amendment to the US Constitution. The first amendment, as well as all of the other US constitutional amendments, only applies to government or state conduct. The first amendment does not apply to a private company, such as Facebook. Facebook has terms of service to which all of its members have agreed. Facebook already does ban certain forms of speech that would otherwise be allowed under the first amendment. These include pictures of nudity or graphic violence, comments that harass, annoy or target an individual, or hate speech. The latter includes comments that target an ethnic, racial or religious group.
Holocaust denial pages are designed to incite hatred. “Holohoax” pages are set up to target a religious group, in that they are based on the claim that either the holocaust never happened, or that it was exaggerated by the Jewish people in order to advance their own political and economic interests. People who frequent Holohoax pages are not there to have an academic discussion or to exchange ideas. Nor do they sincerely question whether the holocaust actually occurred. That is a pretext. There is ample documentation which proves that it did occur. Rather, those people are there to promote an agenda of anti-Semitism, to find like-minded people, and to gain a platform on the largest social media site in the world.
As an article in The Guardian (U.K.) recently commented : http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/28/antisemitic-attack-bondi “The internet and social media have provided a new platform, if not a megaphone, for expressions of anti-Semitism which were hitherto confined to the extreme margins of society.” The Supreme court of Canada recognized that “the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers-it began with words. “ The acts of genocide were preceded by state-sanctioned incitement to hate. This included propaganda which dehumanized and demonized the Jewish population. Much of the same propaganda from the Nazi era, can be seen today on face book holocaust denial pages. If any of the content on holocaust denial pages contains “a call for action” that would amount to “fighting words”, which are not protected by the first amendment of the US Constitution.
Therefore, by its own standards, Facebook should recognize holocaust denial as a form of hate speech and ban it from its site.
B. Holocaust Denial is a Crime in many European Countries and in Israel
We also question why Facebook would base its policy, regarding holocaust denial, on a US model. Facebook operates internationally and has members from across the globe. In many European countries, and in Israel, holocaust denial is a felony. The European countries include Germany, Austria, Romania, and Poland. Notably, all of the countries in which the holocaust occurred.
Other European countries which outlaw holocaust denial include Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg and Spain. While the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland do not outright ban holocaust denial, they do have laws which prohibit the “denial of genocide and other crimes against humanity.” The European Union balances holocaust denial and free speech. However, member nations are allowed to impose a maximum jail term of three (3) years for “denying or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.” Wikipedia Article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_against_Holocaust_denial
In 2008, the European Union passed legislation that all member states should enact laws in their country to prevent racism, anti-Semitism and hatred incidents, as well as holocaust denial. http://antisemitism.org.il/article/87522/european-union-countries-will-take-action-passing-legislation-against-antisemitism
Notwithstanding laws in many European countries which criminalize holocaust denial, it is our understanding that people who live in these countries may still have access to holocaust denial pages and groups on Facebook. Innovation in free and paid for VPN providers has resulted in many people, even where implemented only as a security measure, inadvertently or knowingly, gaining access to material which would have previously been unavailable.
Therefore, in keeping with the majority of international opinion, where in many countries holocaust denial is a crime, Facebook can and should ban holocaust denial from its site. Such a ban would not be inconsistent with First Amendment rights in the United States, and would be wholly consistent with hate speech bans that exist in much of Europe.
II. Why Facebook’s current reporting system does not work.
A. Facebook’s current reporting system is not realistic.
Facebook defends its policy by arguing that it provides a way for people to report comments on “Holohoax” pages that violate its terms of service. Yet, it allows the pages to remain on its site as expressions of “free speech.”” Thus, per its current policy, Facebook has drawn an artificial and misguided distinction between specific comments that target an ethnic or religious group, which is prohibits, and more generic holocaust-denial pages, which it should, but does not, prohibit.
The feature on Facebook that allows users to report specific comments on hate pages is not adequate to combat hate speech. First, in order for Facebook to take notice the pages and comments must be reported by a large number of users. It is difficult to mobilize people in mass numbers to report comments on a hate page. Moreover, even if they can be mobilized it is difficult to sustain their motivation, given the usual demands in most people’s lives, such as work and family. Along those same lines, it is very time consuming to read through each specific comment and determine if it violates Facebook’s terms of service.
Second, given the number of users on its site, Facebook’s response time to content reports is typically very slow. It can be a number of days or weeks before it even reads the reports.
Third, once a page is removed due to prohibited content, there is no guarantee that it will stay off Facebook. And, since holocaust denial pages are currently allowed on Facebook, a new page usually surfaces, as soon as an older page is removed.
Fourth, the reports are outsourced to people who live in foreign countries. There are often language and cultural barriers which make it difficult for the staff in said countries to understand why the pages or comments being reported violate Facebook’s terms of service. Moreover, many of these people are not educated about the history of the holocaust.
Thus, in order to effectively combat hate speech on holocaust denial pages, Facebook should change its current policy and put an algorithm in place that weeds out these pages in the first instance. Not only would this solve the problem faced by its members of having to go through the time-consuming process of reporting each comment in mass numbers, but also, it would make things easier for Facebook’s staff. It is far easier to recognize a page or group dedicated to holocaust denial than it is to read through each comment on a given page and try to make that determination.
B. Facebook recently admitted that it has been ineffective in removing hate speech from its site.
In May 2013, in response to pressure from feminist activist groups and select companies who threatened to stop advertising on your site, Facebook admitted that it has been ineffective in eliminating gender biased hate speech and pages that glorify violence against women. Your company issued a statement in which it promised to ‘upgrade employee training, increase accountability, review how it dealt with such content, and require users to use their true identity when creating pages and content.’ The statement also included a promise that Facebook would ‘establish more direct lines of communication with women’s groups and other entities.’ New York Times Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/business/media/facebook-says-it-failed-to-stop-misogynous-pages.html?_r=2&
We suggest Facebook establish more direct lines of communication with our group, and, with other groups in the Jewish community who are combating holocaust denial. We also ask that you recognize that your current reporting system has not been effective in combating hate speech directed at the Jewish Community. As stated above we ask that you recognize holocaust denial as another form of hate speech which targets the Jewish people, and ban it from your site.
III. There is legal precedent which supports our position.
A. The French lawsuit against Twitter
In October 2012 a law suit was filed in France against Twitter for allowing anti-Semitic content on its site. The content or tweets were posted under pseudonyms. Over 350,000 tweets were posted. The French court ruled against Twitter and, in January 2013, the court ordered the social media site to turn over the names and identities of members who posted the anti-Semitic tweets. The French government said that the tweets were illegal as they contravened French laws that prohibit the publication of discriminatory or racist hate speech. Twitter was given 15 days to either hand over the names or file an appeal. Twitter ignored the ruling, alleging that since it is a US based company, it is protected by the first amendment. RT Article: http://rt.com/news/twitter-sued-anti-semitic-737/
Nonetheless, Twitter wound up deleting the offending tweets. The company now faces a $50 million dollar law suit for its failure to comply with the French court order. The plaintiffs are alleging damages because of Twitters refusal to provide names. Id.
Clearly the French court ruling against Twitter parallels the issues we have identified regarding Facebook’s current policy regarding holocaust denial. As discussed above, although Facebook is based in the United States, it has users all over the world. Hence, something posted on Facebook in the US, may be immediately seen by someone in France, or anywhere else in the world. Therefore, by allowing holocaust denial pages to be uploaded on its site, Facebook may be violating the laws in many European countries where holocaust denial is a crime.
B. Bullying content on Social Media lead to teenage suicides
Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons, and Carolina Picchio were teenage girls who all committed suicide because of bullying on social media.
Rehtaeh Parsons was from Novia Scotia, Canada. She was raped at a party. Pictures of her rape were subsequently posted on Facebook. She was then bullied and humiliated by other teenagers. Her parents even moved their residence in hopes that she could have a fresh start in a new city. But the pictures followed her. She could not escape social media. Rehtaeh tried to commit suicide twice, once while she was in a hospital. Each time she seriously injured herself. Her parents eventually made the decision to take her off life support. Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RIP-Rehtaeh-Parsons/630786150281417
Amanda Todd, a US teenager, committed suicide because of pictures posted about her on social media. She was humiliated and bullied by other teens. This finally pushed her over the edge. Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/RestAmandaTodd
Carolina Picchio was from the northern Italian town of Novara. Her story is similar to that of Amanda Todd. Humiliating pictures of her at a party were posted all over Facebook. Thereafter she was continually subjected to abusive and offensive messages from other teenagers. She eventually committed suicide by jumping out of her bedroom window headfirst onto the concrete below. Carolina’s sister and some of her friends said that they reported the abusive messages to face book in the hope that said messages would be removed. But face book did not remove the pictures or the comments. CNN Article and Video: http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/31/world/europe/italy-facebook-suicide/
Now a Novara prosecutor, Francesco Saluzzo, is looking into filing a criminal complaint against Facebook for its failure to remove the pictures and comments. He believes that Facebook’s malfeasance may have led to Carolina’s suicide. Id.
Clearly all of these teenage suicides may have been avoided if Facebook had been responsible and had removed the bullying content promptly after it was reported. In many states in the US, legislation is now being proposed that would make cyber bullying a crime. In California, the proposed law defines bullying by an electronic act, and specifically includes posts on a social media network. See http://www.lawschoolblog.org/cyberbullying-laws-how-fast-are-states-adapting/
Cyber bullying relates to holocaust denial in that said content evokes the same emotions that fueled the holocaust in the 1940s. It is painful for victims and their descendants to view this material. It is as though their families and loved ones are being murdered twice.
Since holocaust denial pages do provoke strong emotions, said pages may be tantamount to ‘fighting words.’ As stated in section IA, above, fighting words are not protected under the ‘speech clause’ of the ‘first amendment.’ Therefore, even based upon a US model, holocaust denial pages may not constitute protected speech.
In light of all of the above, we repeat our request that the Facebook shareholders change the current policy which allows holocaust denial pages and groups on their site. We ask Facebook to ban holocaust denial pages and groups from its site, and to put algorithms in place which automatically weed out these pages and groups.
We await your response.
Facebook Group-Ban ALL Holocaust Denial Pages and Groups from Facebook
Facebook Page-Sign Petitions to Ban Holocaust Denial from Social Media as Hate Speech
Signatories - Change.org and Care2 petitions, Facebook. Ban All Holocaust Denial Pages and Groups.
Randi Susan Klein, Esq.
Page and Group Administrator
Simon Jones, M.A., Grad.Dip.Ed (Tertiary)
Page and Group Administrator
Care2 and Change.org Petitions Administrator
EnclosuresCare2 and Change.org Petitions
Zip-File of screenshots of posts from a Facebook Holocaust denial group
(Group name: ‘Historical Examination of an event known as the Holocaust.‘)
Juris Bunkis, MD
Honorary General Consul for the Republic of Latvia in California
Deborah E Lipstadt, PhD
Professor: Emory University: Dorit Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies
Author: ‘The Eichmann Trial’
‘History on Trial: My Day In Court With a Holocaust Denier.’
Current DPG State Committee Member: Ex-Officio-Savannah, Georgia
US Congress: Candidate for Congress-Savannah, Georgia- 2012 to 2014
Messinger Foundation, CEO (Nonprofit set up to increase awareness and funding for drug abuse prevention programs).
© 2014 Randi Susan Klein, Simon Jones