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Facebook, Reddit get low marks for handling of Holocaust denial content

The two companies, along with Discord and Steam, get a "D" in a report card prepared by the Anti-Defamation League. Facebook disagrees with the grade.

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Facebook has been under pressure to combat more hate speech.

Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook, Reddit, Discord and Steam have received low grades from the Anti-Defamation League for their handling of Holocaust denial content on their platforms. The ADL issued the report to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which will be marked on Wednesday this year.

The ADL, an advocacy group focused on fighting antisemitism and hate, gave each of the four platforms a D in a report card based on a range of criteria, including whether they had policies against Holocaust denial content and how difficult such content was to find on their platforms. The group said it also reported Holocaust denial content from "non-official accounts" in January to see how these companies enforced their rules. Enforcement was weighted more heavily in the grade, the ADL said in the report.

A total of nine companies were evaluated by the ADL, and no platform earned an A. Twitch, a live video streaming service, got a B, the highest grade given. Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and Roblox each received a C. While both Twitch and Facebook have rules against Holocaust denial content, Twitch took action against reported content while Facebook didn't, the report said. The ADL cited several examples of Holocaust denial content that was reported to Facebook, including videos with captions such as "Holohoax tales." The group received a message from Facebook stating the videos didn't violate its rules but noted the content could be offensive.

"In recent years, content denying the Holocaust has appeared on an array of social media platforms, largely because those companies have not been nimble enough or taken the issue seriously," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. "While some platforms have finally stepped up their efforts to stop the amplification of denial, others are still struggling to address antisemitism and Holocaust denial effectively."

The report raises questions about how well Facebook and other platforms are enforcing their rules against Holocaust denial content specifically. The ADL helped organize a campaign last year that urged advertisers to pause spending on Facebook ads to pressure the company to do a better job of combating hate speech. The group recommends the platforms enforce its rules against Holocaust denial consistently, provide more information to users about how content moderation decisions are made and change products so they're focused more on user safety.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company disagreed with the grade it received. The social network said starting on Wednesday people who search for terms associated with the Holocaust or Holocaust denial will get a message directing them to credible information about the genocide. The message says "the Holocaust was the organized persecution and killing of 6 million Jewish people, alongside other targeted groups, by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II." It encourages users to visit a website about the Holocaust.

"We don't agree -- we've made major progress in fighting Holocaust denial on Facebook by implementing a new policy prohibiting it and enforcing against these hateful lies in every country around the world," a Facebook spokesperson said. "We've removed the content mentioned in this report and will continue working to keep Holocaust denial off of our platform."

Facebook banned Holocaust denial content in October. In 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, sparked outrage after he said that Holocaust denial content shouldn't be removed from the social network because he didn't think "that they're intentionally getting it wrong." He then said in an October Facebook post "his thinking evolved" after he saw data showing an increase in anti-Semitic violence. 

Reddit said it removed the content cited in the ADL report. "Reddit's site-wide policies prohibit any content that incites violence or promotes hate based on identity or vulnerability, including Holocaust denial content," a Reddit spokeswoman said in a statement. The company also "quarantines" communities that share offensive content including posts that deny the Holocaust happened. That means users have to click through a warning to view this content.  

Discord said in a statement that it views Holocaust denial content as "deeply harmful" and doesn't allow it on its service. The company has an internal policy against that type of content and said it would take action against the content found by the ADL. Twitch, Twitter and TikTok said hateful conduct isn't allowed on its platform either. "We work closely with experts in the fields of hate speech, including anti-semitism, to ensure our policies are comprehensive and are pleased to see that our efforts to keep this content off our service are having a measurable impact," a Twitch spokesperson said.

TikTok said it continually updates its policies and systems to combat hateful behavior. "We welcome guidance from experts like the ADL as we strive to promote a safe community environment," a company spokeswoman said. A Twitter spokesperson said the company continues to look at "ways to more aggressively take enforcement action against such content and are working with partners to identify the biggest opportunities to do so."

Google-owned YouTube said it removed the Holocaust denial content flagged in the report and that the company continues to "invest in the expertise and technology necessary to detect and remove abusive content from YouTube." 

Roblox didn't have a statement. Steam didn't respond to a request for comment.