Why Is Facebook Tolerating Holocaust-Denial Groups?
We all know that practically everything under the sun, no matter how objectionable, can be found on the internet. However, that's why, when certain materials find their way onto websites that are privately owned and operated, it is the responsibility of those websites to assert basic previously-agreed-upon forms of editorial controls.
Keep this in mind because, as Pete Cashmore of Mashable is reporting, there are several Facebook groups that have formed with the sole intention of denying the Holocaust. Some of the groups in question include "Holocaust: A Series of Lies," and "Holocaust is a Holohoax".
Despite formal letters that have been sent to Facebook requesting that the groups be removed from the website, "Facebook's current position is that they will only block access to the groups from countries (such as Germany) where Holocaust Denial is illegal - they will not be removed in the US".
Let's clarify something. Freedom of speech is the bedrock of our modern society, and you will find no stronger advocate of it anywhere else. However, the First Amendment is not the issue here. For starters, the First Amendment is a guarantee that the government will not strip away your free speech rights, but this says nothing of private entities stipulating what form of speech is allowed and what is not within its own private confines. In other words, Facebook is completely at liberty to regulate the content of its own private website.
Second, the Facebook Terms of Service explicitly forbids the posting of "hateful" content. There is precedent to suggest the enforcement of this principle - Facebook recently used this ban on hateful speech as justification for removing a Ku Klux Klan group from the site. So if the company could do that, what excuse is there for not doing the same for a Holocaust-denial group?
(And to anyone who doubts whether the existence of these groups alone constitutes hate speech, take a quick glance at the groups' pages themselves. As Cashmore notes, there are enough threatening racist and anti-semitic comments to make the decision to remove them an easy one.)
My guess is that with enough public pressure asserted on Facebook, they will eventually relent and remove the groups in question. But it's inconceivable why Facebook would have fought this in the first place.