Mark Zuckerberg defended the presence of Holocaust deniers on Facebook this week, despite widespread criticism, arguing that the company's algorithm would penalize misinformation in order to limit its proliferation in the social network, rather than canceling it directly.
But Facebook still shows prominent groups that promote Holocaust denial at the top of their search results, Business Insider has found.
When a user searches for "Holocaust" on Facebook, some of the best results are for user-generated groups who falsely claim that the Nazi murder of millions of Jews was invented. These appear both on the first page of the search results and on the dedicated tab Groups of search results.
The visibility of these groups in Facebook's search results reveals a gaping hole in Facebook's defense to stop the spread of untruths in its service and raise new questions about the effectiveness and seriousness of Facebook's policies.
When a user searches for "Holocaust" on Google, the results of the first page, unlike Facebook's search results, are a mix of news articles, legitimate informational websites, and other results none of which suggests the Holocaust. The same goes for Yahoo, Microsoft's own search engine Bing and privacy-centered search engine DuckDuckGo.
In response to a comment, a Facebook spokesperson said, "We find the denial of the Holocaust repugnant and ignorant, and Mark [Zuckerberg] made it clear – and we agree that we find the denial of the Holocaust profoundly offensive. " We do not allow people to celebrate, defend or justify the Holocaust. We also remove any content that mocks Holocaust victims or survivors.
"People are starting to wake up"
On Wednesday, the technology news site Recode published a sweeping interview with CEO Mark Zuckerberg. There was a furore in the back on Facebook's use of the conspiracy theory website Infowars, and Zuckerberg argued that the company did not feel comfortable limiting the "voice" of its users, even if they were clearly wrong.
Instead, Facebook punished counterfeiters and misrepresenters with its algorithm, which ensures that such posts in the news feed get much less traction and views. Zuckerberg cited Holocaust denial as an example of content that was punished but not banned.
"I am Jewish, and there are a number of people who deny that the Holocaust happened," said the Facebook founder. "I find that deeply offensive, but at the end of the day, I do not think our platform should downsize that because I think there are things that other people were wrong about."
But newsfeed is not the only way Facebook users can find and consume information on the social network. Holocaust denier groups rank high in Facebook's search results, mixed with non-conspiratorial-theoretical groups.
The groups differ slightly in their search position from user to user. One of these groups, The Open Holocaust Debate, has more than 1,600 members and is often ranked among the top three search results. Called a "study group," its users often publish anti-Semitic messages and deny that the Holocaust occurred.
Another top ten result is the 1000-member "Holocaust Revisionism", whose description goes in part: "Many people start to watch and hear the official story we were told about The Holocaust does not like 100% To be true … The truth is that Hitler was a Zionist puppet from start to finish … and that the whole Holocaust cause was part of a messianic agenda to fulfill a Sabbatian Frankist's version of the prophecy. "
Facebook says search results are unique – but the problem is widespread
In an e-mail statement, a Facebook spokesperson said the search results are unique to each user: "They're algorithmically based on a combination Many of the factors that determine which groups appear in the group module on the search results page include relevance to the Search bar when you are connected to members of the group and the activity level of the group. "
However, Business Insider tested the "Holocaust" search with four different users, and groups of Holocaust deniers appeared very frequently each time – suggesting that this is likely to be a widespread problem. For two of the users, "The Open Holocaust Debate" ranked third and "Holocaust Revisionism" sixth. For a user first ranked 2nd and the latter was ranked 8th. On the other hand, "The Open Holocaust Debate" took sixth place.
The spokesman added that Facebook blocks the Holocaust denial content in countries where it is illegal and groups when they "[devolve] become threats or hate allegations."
The prominent role of the Holocaust Likely groups in Facebook's search results run the risk of users faking information about historical cruelty, especially as Facebook increasingly encourages group function to connect to the platform.
A recent survey conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany found that 11% of US adults were not sure if they had heard of the Holocaust and that 2 out of 3 Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 could not identify Auschwitz ,
While Facebook takes greater steps in its Newsfeed to stop the spread of misinformation, it's unclear to what extent the company controls the other corners of its 2 billion-member Internet service.
With its technical resources and capital, Facebook should be able to solve the technology problem.
After all, there is no other major search engine that propagates Holocaust denial on its first results page for "Holocaust."