Despite instituting a ban on all content that “denies or distorts” the Holocaust last month, Facebook still has not removed numerous well-known Holocaust denial pages from its platform and its algorithms continue to promote this type of content, according to a Tuesday report from The Markup, highlighting one of many complaints the social media giant faces in its handling of sensitive content.
The Markup, a data-driven news source covering technology, found that “numerous pages for well-known Holocaust denial groups remain active” on the site, ranging from those explicitly denying the Holocaust to those which experts accuse of more nefariously sowing doubt, like the Institute for Historical Review (IHR).
Users who find these pages will then be recommended by Facebook’s algorithm to “related pages” which, per the report, include more Holocaust-denying and anti-Semitic content, “leading users further and further into a web of discriminatory content.”
For example, The Markup identified this chain of recommendations: from IRH’s page, users are recommended to visit a page for the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, then a group called Castle Hill Publishers, which the Southern Poverty Law Center-designates an active Holocuast denial group, and finally a fan page for neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel who authored the book, “The Hitler We Loved and Why.”
Some of these groups mix factual information into their arguments, which along with communication through “code words” is a strategy to avoid content moderation, according to Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
Though Facebook told The Markup that the IRH specifically does not violate its current policies, it’s unclear whether the other pages identified are still active because they don’t violate policies or because they’ve slipped through the cracks of Facebook’s moderation.
A Facebook spokesperson told Forbes that the pages are being investigated, but did not immediately answer questions about why they have not yet been removed.
Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of content policy, previously warned that enforcement “cannot happen overnight.” “There is a range of content that can violate these policies, and it will take some time to train our reviewers and our systems on enforcement,” wrote Bickert in an announcement of the platform’s new approach.
Facebook announced its crackdown on Holocaust denial content in early October, citing a “well-documented” rise in anti-Semitism globally, as well as an “alarming” level of ignorance about the Holocaust. A survey published in September found that one in 10 young Americans believes the Holocaust never happened, while nearly a quarter (23%) believe it’s a myth or the number of Jews killed was exaggerated. Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously refused to enact a ban on Holocaust denial content, telling Recode in 2018 that while he found it “deeply offensive,” his platform shouldn’t moderate the content.
“Holocaust denial, whether on Facebook or elsewhere, is most effective when the deniers mix enough factual material into their arguments to confuse readers—including content moderators—or obfuscate their core beliefs,” Greenblatt told The Markup. “This underscores the importance of high-quality training for both human moderators and detection algorithms.”
“Roiled by Election, Facebook Struggles to Balance Civility and Growth” (The New York Times)
Source: Forbes – Business