Former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Photo by Bojan Blaževski.

The international organization the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), continues their digital campaign featuring video messages from Holocaust survivors demanding that Facebook includes Holocaust denial into their definition of hate speech.

The main message of the campaign, addressed to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg is “Holocaust denial posts on Facebook are hate speech and must be removed!” Participants contributing personal testimonies published with the hashtag #NoDenyingIt include former inmates of Nazi concentration and extermination camps and their family members who managed to survive the genocide during World War II. recently reported about the survey on Holocaust knowledge conducted by the Claims Conference in the 50 US states which showed that young people lack basic knowledge about the Holocaust and that significant percentage hold many erroneous beliefs, including those coinciding with Neo-Nazi propaganda.

The study showed clear lack of awareness of key historical facts among young American adults aged between 18 and 39: 63 percent of all respondents do not know that six million Jews were murdered and 36 percent thought that “two million or fewer Jews” were killed during the Holocaust. Additionally, although there were more than 40,000 camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, 48 percent of US national survey respondents cannot name a single one.

Unlike Europe, where hate speech a criminal offense in most of the countries which have historically experienced the horrors of Holocaust during the Second World War, the US does  not have such laws at national level. However, social media platforms adopt rules of conduct which often confirm with the laws of some of the countries they operate or take steps further in ensuring a safe environment and promoting human rights, thus functioning as self-regulatory mechanisms for their users.

Facebook encourages its users to report instances of prohibited behavior that make the environment provided by the platform unsafe or violate community standards.

Example of use of Facebook reporting system, in this case of a post promoting Nazi propaganda. This option is available at the menu under the link marked “…” at the top-right corner of each post.

By clicking the “I agree” button on the terms of reference, the social media users enter a contractual obligation with the platform promising to obey those rules. Users can also help enforcement of these rules, by reporting instances of issues such as hate speech, as defined by the platform. Currently Facebook classifies as hate speech the following:

  • “Violent or dehumanizing speech, for example, comparing all people of a certain race to insects or animals;
  • “Statements of inferiority, disgust or contempt, for example, suggesting that all people of a certain gender are disgusting;
  • “Calls for exclusion or segregation, for example, saying that people of a certain religion shouldn’t be allowed to vote.”
Part of Facebook reporting interface explaining the criteria for hate speech.

These categories cover only part of the range of legal definitions of hate speech as a felony used in the 47 countries which are members of the Council of Europe, an international body that includes nearly all European states (only exceptions are Belarus due to human rights concerns and the Vatican as a theocracy).

According to the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, “hate speech covers all forms of expressions that spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance.”

16 European countries, including Germany, France and Russia, as well as Israel, have have laws against Holocaust denial, or the denial of the systematic genocidal killing of approximately six million Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany and its allies in the 1930s and 1940s. Many countries also have broader laws that criminalize genocide denial.

For instance, according to Article 407-a of the Criminal Code of Republic of North Macedonia, persons who “use information systems to publicly negate or severely minimize, approve or justify” acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes against the civilian population, wounded or sick persons, and prisoners of war, face penalties ranging between one to five years in prison.  If this crime was done with intent to incite hate, discrimination or violence against persons or groups based on their national, ethnic or religious identity, the minimal sentence for this felony is four years in prison. So far in recent history of the country there’s no public record that anyone had been sentenced for this crime.