January 23, 2024 — New York
American Jewish Committee (AJC) welcomed today’s decision upholding Meta’s prohibition of and policy for removing Holocaust denial content by the Oversight Board, an independent entity established by Meta.
The board affirmed that such policies are appropriate responses to the danger posed by global antisemitism and align with Meta’s commitment to ensuring respect for free expression. It called on Meta to more consistently enforce its Holocaust denial prohibition, enacted in 2020, and ensure the policies are applied on Instagram as well as on Facebook.
Created by Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, the Oversight Board is made up of human rights experts on international standards on freedom of expression and assesses user complaints about Meta’s content moderation practices.
AJC and its Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) submitted a comment on the case asserting that Meta’s prohibition of Holocaust denial is fully consistent with international human rights standards. The Oversight Board repeatedly cited the submission proffered by AJC and JBI in its decision.
“Holocaust denial and distortion are never acceptable discourse; they are antisemitic attacks that fuel and perpetuate harmful conspiracies and stereotypes about Jews. All social media and technology companies should heed the Oversight Board’s decision and explicitly prohibit and remove Holocaust denial content on their platforms and products, subject only to extremely limited exceptions, such as for content posted for the purpose of condemnation,” said Felice Gaer, Director of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights. “The Oversight Board’s decision affirms what AJC has emphasized consistently, in the U.S., at the United Nations, and abroad: all actors have a responsibility to act to protect Jews from the real threats that they are facing around the world. A human rights approach to fighting antisemitism requires no less.”
Citing AJC’s submission, the Oversight Board agreed that “Holocaust denial and distortion amounts to a discriminatory attack against Jewish people and promotes antisemitic stereotypes, often connected to and spread during antisemitic hate crimes.” The Oversight Board decided that:
- allowing Holocaust denial on Meta’s platforms “would create an environment of intimidation that effectively excludes Jewish people,” and its prohibition respected the rights of Jewish users generally, as well as Holocaust victims and their relatives specifically, to equality, non-discrimination, and freedom of expression.
- Meta should remove Holocaust denial content from its platforms because other, less intrusive steps to combat it (such as labeling Holocaust denial content or affixing warning screens) are inadequate responses given the alarming rise in dissemination of antisemitic content online; the extent of the harm it causes, online and offline; and the “staggering ignorance” about the Holocaust prevalent today.
In justifying its findings, the Oversight Board cited sources, including a 2021 report by the Blaustein Institute, describing the human rights impact of rising global antisemitism from 2019-2021 as well as a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Holocaust denial adopted by consensus in 2022.
The Board also called on Meta to report on its efforts to enforce its Holocaust denial prohibition consistently and to increase the number of human reviewers necessary to consider related complaints.
AJC is the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people. With headquarters in New York, 25 offices across the United States, 14 overseas posts, as well as partnerships with 38 Jewish community organizations worldwide, AJC’s mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world. For more, please visit www.ajc.org.