Mark Zuckerberg's Sister Simultaneously Rejects and Defends Facebook Censorship

Censorship is "nefarious." Unless it's being carried out by the government.



Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's sister doesn't think the social media company should censor Holocaust deniers. She wants the government to do that.

Zuckerberg drew criticism Wednesday after Recode asked him about fake news on the platform. Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, told the interviewer that he did not want to delete even something as deeply and personally offensive to him as Holocaust denial. "I don't believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong," he said. "I don't think that they're intentionally getting it wrong." Zuckerberg was willing to take down pages engaged in actually organizing harm. But when a page limits itself to expressing offensive opinions, he'd rather lower its reach than expel it.

The comments were quickly criticized by people who believe Facebook had a duty to banish ideas like Holocaust denial.

In statement provided to CNN late Thursday evening, Zuckerberg' sister, Randi Zuckerberg, said that she had a duty to weigh in as a leader of the Jewish community and someone who has "worked at the ground floor of social media." She does not want to live, she writes, "in a world where tech companies get to decide who has the right to speech and get to police content in a way that is different from what our legal system dictates."

"While it can be appalling to see what some people say," she argues, "I don't think living in a sterile, Stepford-like online community where we simply press the delete button on the ugly reality of how people feel is helpful either." It would be "nefarious," she said, for Facebook to selectively silence the public.

Unless, that is, it's just following the law. "Rather than rally against technology," she writes, "let's recognize that this hate exists, that it's not going anywhere, and use our anger as a rallying cry to call for legislation to make Holocaust denial a crime."

Unlike in several European countries, America has no federal law criminalizing Holocaust denial. (There has been at least one case where a Montana man's bigoted tweets were prosecuted under a broad defamation statute that existed in state law.) Nor can Americans use group libel—slander against an entire community based on religion, ethnicity, etc.—or a similar tool to pursue a defamation suit against Holocaust deniers.

So this would be a radical change in the law, one that would run into obvious First Amendment problems. As Reason's Robby Soave argues,

Policing hate on a very large scale is quite difficult given the frequently subjective nature of offense; we risk de-platforming legitimate viewpoints that are unpopular but deserve to be heard; and ultimately, silencing hate is not the same thing as squelching it.