Facebook has once again found itself sizzling uncomfortably in the frying pan of user outrage recently, this time for apparently letting a bunch of Holocaust denial groups maintain shop on the site.
The most prominent voice demanding Holocaust denial groups get the boot from Facebook belongs to attorney Brian Cuban, brother of high-tech entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. He has launched a public campaign to have groups like "Holocaust: A Series of Lies," and "Holocaust is a Holohoax" scoured from the site — pointing out Facebook's inconsistent policy of censorship.
Human nature dictates that owning the world's biggest social network means you're invariably hosting a public forum for Earth's diverse pool of jerks and assholes — but Facebook apparently wants to strike an arbitrary line between the two.
Ah yes, but when does mere jerkish behavior wander into the area of unacceptable assholitude?
Barely a week ago, Facebook removed a page promoting KKK membership on the Isle of Man. Yet Holocaust denial groups are still peddling their history retcons on the site easy as you please.
Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt recently told CNN the company does find the Holocaust deniers patently offensive and objectionable, but wants to maintain a delicate balance of free speech and user protection. The reason the KKK site got shuttered, according to Facebook, is because the site advocated violence by asking users to "join us and help clense [sic] the Isle of Man."
Cuban also complained that these Holocaust denial groups violate anti-hate-speech laws in several European countries and are therefore inherently against Facebook's terms of service. He's since backed away from this, calling the stance a "back door 'lawyer's approach'" when he should have focused on the real issue.
From Cuban's website:
The Holocaust Denial movement is nothing more than a pretext to allow the preaching of hatred against Jews and to recruit other like minded individuals to do the same. Allowing these groups to flourish on Facebook under the guise of “open discussion” does nothing more than help spread their message of hate. Is this the kind of open discussion that Facebook wants to encourage? Is this really where you want to draw your line?
Facebook, meanwhile, has done what it does best when facing public scrutiny: wriggling. The site confirmed to CNet that it has shut down two of the five Holocaust denial groups on Cuban's periscope. Apparently, the site wants to maintain all the freedom of speech blustering it has made in its defense while still sweeping the controversy under the rug. The solution: Eying the groups on tenterhooks until someone there promotes hate or violence.
But then, perhaps there really wasn't a more a tactful way for Facebook to deal with the situation. Freedom of speech, ain't it a bitch sometimes? ®