(JTA) – The German government issued a withering critique of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement that he would not remove Holocaust denial posts from the widely used social platform, stating that such a policy was contrary to German law.
“There must be no place for anti-Semitism. This includes verbal and physical attacks on Jews as well as the denial of the Holocaust,” Justice Minister Katarina Barley said. “The latter is also punishable by us and will be strictly prosecuted.”
In a statement to Politico Europe, a Justice Ministry spokesperson said that what the Jewish tech entrepreneur “wishes or demands for the American or international market is not possible in Germany,” where Nazi symbols and Holocaust denial have been prohibited for decades. Social media companies operating in Germany are required by law to remove content violating the ban.
Zuckerberg ignited a firestorm earlier this week when he told Recode, an American technology news website, that Facebook prioritizes allowing people to express themselves – even if they “get things wrong.”
“I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” he told the interviewer, Kara Swisher. “I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”
Zuckerberg said that instead of banning such items, the company would make sure they were not presented prominently in the News Feed, the posts that are seen most frequently by individual users.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt challenged Zuckerberg, saying that Holocaust denial is “a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews. Facebook has a moral and ethical obligation not to allow its dissemination.”
Greenblatt added that his organization would “continue to challenge Facebook on this position and call on them to regard Holocaust denial as a violation of their community guidelines.”