Facebook doesn’t save face

Facebook doesn’t save face

As the pope visits Israel this week and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to meet with President Obama, Jewish attention is naturally focused on these events.
But we’d like to turn your attention to an issue that garners not as many headlines, yet is potentially more important: Facebook and the Holocaust.
Facebook announced Monday that it has removed two groups promoting Holocaust denial.
Before you celebrate, keep in mind that last week a spokesman for the popular social networking Web site said Facebook would only ban such groups in countries where Holocaust denial is a criminal offense — Israel and Germany for examples.
Indeed, other Holocaust denial groups are still on Facebook.
“We are monitoring these groups,” the Facebook spokesman was reported as saying, “and if the discussion among members degrades to the point of promoting hate or violence, despite whatever disclaimer the group description provides, we will take them down.”
Pardon us if we’re not reassured. Keeping up these groups — any of these groups — gives them a dangerous form of legitimacy. If Facebook keeps them up, then they must be legit. Right?
You may think that’s a silly point, but entire generations of Web surfers — young people with little or no connection to the Holocaust — get their news from sites like these, not from newspapers, which are on their financial knees.
Facebook’s terms state that any of its users can be banned if they post “any content that we deem to be harmful, threatening, unlawful, defamatory, infringing, abusive, inflammatory, harassing, vulgar, obscene, fraudulent, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable.”
Note the use of the word “we.” Facebook is setting itself up as judge and jury for what is objectionable.
We’ll leave the legality of such policies to the lawyers, and just state that the Jewish world must be vigilant in going after online sources of hate and disinformation. The ZOA did this last year when it successfully went after Google, convincing the Internet giant to remove misleading anti-Israel references from its satellite map of Israel that were placed there by users.
As The Chronicle reported when the news broke, following the ZOA’s complaint, Google moved the misleading material that had been automatically visible, including all of the orange dots, from Google Earth’s satellite map of Israel. Propaganda statements came up when the user ran a mouse across the orange dots.
According to the ZOA, Google has now placed the propaganda in a layer with all of the other user-created content that is easily identified as such; that way, it should not be construed as endorsed by Google. Instead of automatically being guided to his anti-Zionist narrative, users are now forced to affirmatively look for his material, just as they must do with all other user-generated content.
The job is far from done, though. Facebook has an estimated 200 million users, and there are other sites like it. With that kind of saturation its power of persuasion is immeasurable. The Jewish world owes its unqualified attention.