Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Local nonprofit takes a stand against online Holocaust deniers

VIRGINIA BEACH — With more than 120,000 signatures and growing, an online petition from the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect and Association of Holocaust Organizations is asking Facebook to remove pages that deny the Holocaust.

“The Holocaust happened. This cannot be disputed. Period,” the petition stated.

Among those signing the petition is The Holocaust Commission of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, a nonprofit that brings Holocaust awareness to the Tidewater area through educational programs and materials for local educators.

A recent statement from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed that the social media platform will not remove content deemed to hold misinformation or untruths, including pages denying the Holocaust.

“I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong,” Zuckerberg said.

Holocaust Commission Director Elena Barr Baum said she believes it is not that simple or innocent.

“It is people who have an agenda, it is people who are anti-semitic, it is people who are propagating hatred which consequently does promote harm,” Baum said.

In a recent post addressing the removal of InfoWars host Alex Jones from the platform, Facebook stated their effort to “limit the distribution of inaccurate information” as well as their hope to strike the balance between “giving people a voice” and ensuring the safety of their users.

Baum said Facebook can be a powerful tool, and she wouldn’t see the removal of Holocaust denial pages as a breach of anybody’s rights.

“You can not stand up in a crowded theater and yell fire…there is a difference between freedom of expression and expression with intent to harm,” Baum said.

Moving forward, Baum said the Commission will continue to inform people about the terrors of the Holocaust through education. One learning program, “What We Carry,” has reached more than 36,000 people since 2012. It blends documentary film and replica artifacts to tell the story of both a Holocaust survivor and liberator.

The organization also hosts an annual writing and visual arts competition.

Baum said an aspect taught in their many programs is the importance of not being a bystander when encountering prejudice in the world.

“If we don’t stand up, who is going to stand up?” Baum asked.

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