Friday, May 15, 2009

Holocaust Denial on Facebook

Facebook has come under criticism for allowing accounts used to promote Holocaust denial, the position that the Holocaust of World War II, during which an estimated 6 million Jews and 4 million other people including homosexuals, Gypsies and the mentally handicapped were murdered by the Nazis, never happened or at least has been greatly exaggerated.

Let’s understand right up front that this is not a First Amendment issue. The First Amendment restricts the government and does not apply to private companies. Facebook need only answer to its customer base for its actions here. It would be well within its legal rights to restrict accounts which promote what it considers an objectionable message.

Facebook has chosen not to shut down the Holocaust denial accounts. The question is should it?

Holocaust Denial is total nonsense and often uses a façade of history for what is really anti-Semitism. But Creationism is total nonsense as well and uses a façade of science for what is really religion. Should Creationists be banned as well?

What about people who criticize religion? Should that be considered hate speech and banned too?

The problem is if you can justify banning Holocaust deniers then you can also justify banning Creationists who often fall into attacking what they call “Darwinists,” atheists and agnostics. Are anti-atheists hate mongers?

You can then make the same argument for anyone who attacks religion and declare them anti-Muslim or anti-Christian or whatever.

Ignoring the argument that this is simply the slippery slope fallacy for the moment, there are other issues that stir the kind of passions in people that Holocaust denial stirs. Should Facebook ban those types of accounts as well?

Now let’s talk about the slippery slope. Is this concern just that old fallacy? You can only claim the slippery slope fallacy if you can make the case that Holocaust denial is fundamentally different than the other cases. I don’t think it is other than it might be easier to debunk.

As much as I find Holocaust denial distasteful, I have to stand with Facebook on this one. The Holocaust denial accounts should not be banned.

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