Everyday Ethics

Everyday Ethics

Is Facebook Acting Ethically?

The big question that caught my eye in the news recently regards Facebook’s ethical obligations.

13 countries have made Holocaust denial a crime. Personally, no matter how abhorrent I find the blatant dismissal of the Holocaust, I can’t stand behind the idea of outlawing a person’s right to believe in these thoughts.

While attorney Brian Cuban
seems to be steering clear of First Amendment issues, he is up in arms about the fact that Facebook, as a private company which does have the right to restrict speech, hasn’t removed Holocaust Denial groups such as “Holocaust: A Series of Lies,” and “Holocaust is a Holohoax”.


So the question isn’t if Facebook has a legal obligation to remove these groups, but if they have an ethical obligation.

After thinking on it a bit, I have to say no. In fact, I would say that under the ideals many of us live by, they have an ethical obligation not to remove these groups, provided they do not cause or advocate harm.

I think many people would agree that these groups are protected under freedom of speech in the United States – their purpose is not violent or threatening. As point of fact, Facebook often removes groups that promote violence, such as pro-KKK groups.

I am 100% against hate-speech. However, is disbelief in the historical accuracy of the Holocaust hate-speech? In my opinion, it’s more lunacy than hateful.

This is an issue that goes far beyond Facebook. At what point are disagreeable thoughts criminal? Or, for the purposes of this blog, unethical?

Comments read comments(8)
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posted May 9, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Agreed, I think the laws against this sort of nonsense probably encourage the denial.

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An Ethicist

posted May 9, 2009 at 11:13 pm

‘Facebook’ is CORRECT.
“Disagreeable” [to ?someone] thoughts might include creationism!

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posted May 10, 2009 at 11:39 am

I disagree – Facebook does take moral stands on some content that is not related to violence. Facebook’s advertising standards (see section 9 in link) detail various items that are prohibited from being the subject of advertising and include smoking, web cams, and adult toys. Smoking is known to be bad, but is it Facebook’s moral responsibility to restrict ads relating to it? Facebook thinks so… So, why not do the same for groups relating to holocaust disbelief?
Though I don’t have the stats on the number of people in these groups, it is certainly less than the number of people who would potentially boycott Fcebook if this issue garnered heavy worldwide press. Would Facebook change its mind once dollars came into play?

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posted May 11, 2009 at 9:21 am

I believe Facebook is acting ethically. Laws or rules that aim to govern individual’s thoughts seem like dangerous territory. Freedom of speech falls under free will, which no one has the authority to alter. Education is always the best tool to create understanding and promote compassionate treatment of others. Let’s utilize that tool to dispel any sentiment that doesn’t uplift others.

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Iris Alantiel

posted May 11, 2009 at 10:13 am

I checked out the Facebook group, and it really needs to stay up because it’s the best argument we could ever have against itself! You look at a picture of the human suffering of concentration-camp victims and see the caption that says it’s fake, and it really puts into perspective what Holocaust denial really means.

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posted May 11, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Interesting topic. I think I agree with you – so long as these groups do not encourage violence or otherwise impinge on others’ rights/well being (ie the whole “fire in a crowded theater” ruling), Facebook should protect the freedom of speech. They can censor it if they want to, but they shouldn’t feel a moral obligation to do so, especially when they’re operating under the primary goal of social networking for all, not social filtering for some. To some people the concept of abortion, or of limiting a woman’s right to her body, are equally incendiary topics, or are equally obviously correct (from their perspective). Too much slippery slope possible here.

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posted June 25, 2010 at 1:48 am

i agree too. Facebook is just a site which enable users give all information about them,but it’s up to the user if he will tell the truth about his personality.If there is denial about a certain information,it is not the fault of the facebook site

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posted April 20, 2012 at 11:36 am

i agree that Facebook is acting ethically. it regards the users to post, create or comment anything in good manner but problem to some users do not care and consider which kind of things should be posted or created and which appropriate language should be used in their chatting or communication

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