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Holocaust Foundations Offer Zuckerberg 'Rapidly Executable Steps' to Fight Holocaust Denial on Facebook

Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the VivaTech (Viva Technology) trade fair in Paris,on May 24, 2018. (Eliot Blondet/Abaca/Sipa USA via AP Images)

A coalition of global Holocaust museums and foundations offered to help Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg battle Holocaust denial on the social media platform.

Zuckerberg argued in an interview last month that Holocaust deniers wouldn’t meet the threshold of having their content removed because he doesn’t “think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong” and it’s “hard to impugn intent.”

“I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive. 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. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong,” he said.

Zuckerberg later emailed podcast host Kara Swisher to clarify his remarks.

“I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” he wrote. “…These issues are very challenging but I believe that often the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech.”

The letter’s signatories include the chairman, Henry Grunwald, and the co-founder, James Smith, of the UK National Holocaust Centre And Museum; Simon Bentley, the chairman of the Yad Vashem UK; Stephen D. Smith, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation; Samuel Asher, executive director of the Virginia Holocaust Museum; Susan Abrams, chief executive officer Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center; Peter Schäfer, director of the Jewish Museum Berlin; Dara Solomon, executive director of the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre in Toronto; Gavin Morris, director of the South African Jewish Museum; Carlos Reiss, general director of the Museo do Holocausto de Curitiba, Brazil; and many more.

“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,” they told Zuckerberg, citing a 34 percent rise in assaults on Jews in the UK last year, a figure that continues to rise this year.

“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,” the letter continued. “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.”

The groups said they can help Facebook take “tangible, rapidly executable steps” against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial with educational resources in multiple languages “ready for digital deployment,” “professional development programs for educators on Facebook to give them resources, skills and confidence to tackle hate and prejudice, and to teach empathy, understanding and respect,” and interactive shareable stories “that reveal the personal dimension of hate-based violence and the inspiring people who have stood up against it.”

They asked Zuckerberg for “a face to face meeting, at a location of your choosing, to scope a specific and bespoke education program, aimed at raising Holocaust awareness and acceptance within the Facebook community.”

“Powered by the good ethics and willing of you and your team, and the primary research, educational tools, creative resources and survivor testimony of our global Holocaust expert network — we can together help those who are ‘getting a few things wrong’ to get a few things right,” they added.