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Mark Zuckerberg Tries to Clarify Remarks About Holocaust Deniers After Outcry

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Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, said in an interview published Wednesday that he would not automatically remove denials that the Holocaust took place from the site, a remark that caused an uproar online.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s comments were made during an interview with the tech journalist Kara Swisher that was published on the site Recode. (Read the full transcript here.) Hours later, Mr. Zuckerberg tried to clarify his comments in an email to Recode.

In the interview, Mr. Zuckerberg had been discussing what content Facebook would remove from the site, and noted that in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka, the dissemination of hate speech can have immediate and dire consequences. Moments earlier, he had also defended his company’s decision to allow content from the conspiracy site Infowars to be distributed on Facebook.

[Facebook plans to remove misinformation that could lead to physical harm.]

“The principles that we have on what we remove from the service are: If it’s going to result in real harm, real physical harm, or if you’re attacking individuals, then that content shouldn’t be on the platform,” he said.

“There’s a lot of categories of that that we can get into, but then there’s broad debate.”

Ms. Swisher, who will become an Opinion contributor with The New York Times later this summer, challenged Mr. Zuckerberg.

“‘Sandy Hook didn’t happen’ is not a debate,” she said, referring to the Connecticut school massacre in 2012, which Infowars has spread conspiracy theories about. “It is false. You can’t just take that down?”

Mr. Zuckerberg countered that the context of the remark mattered.

“I also think that going to someone who is a victim of Sandy Hook and telling them, ‘Hey, no, you’re a liar’ — that is harassment, and we actually will take that down,” he said.

That’s when Mr. Zuckerberg brought up the Holocaust.

“But over all, let’s take this whole closer to home,” he continued. “I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. 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.”

Ms. Swisher interrupted him: “In the case of the Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead.”

Mr. Zuckerberg’s response was somewhat muddled.

“It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” he said, adding that he also gets things wrong when he speaks publicly, and other public figures do as well.

“I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, ‘We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times,’” he said.

Instead, Facebook would allow the content to exist on its site, but would move it down in the News Feed so that fewer users see it, he said.

In his follow-up statement, the Facebook chief executive tried to clarify his remarks.

“There’s one thing I want to clear up. I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” he wrote in the email.

“If something is spreading and is rated false by fact checkers, it would lose the vast majority of its distribution,” he wrote, adding that any post “advocating for violence or hate against a particular group” would be removed.

“These issues are very challenging,” he added, “but I believe that often the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech.”

But the interview had already set off a reaction from online commenters and drew widespread news coverage.

Benjy Sarlin of NBC News seemed baffled by Mr. Zuckerberg’s choice of words.

Facebook did not immediately return a request for comment.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement that Holocaust denial is “a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites.”

“Facebook has a moral and ethical obligation not to allow its dissemination,” he wrote.

This article originally appeared on  The New York Times.

 

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7.3 Earthquake hits New Britain island in Papua New Guinea

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7.3 Earthquake hits New Britain island in Papua New Guinea.

Preliminary reports warn tsunami waves could hit areas within 300km of the earthquake’s epicentre.

The quake hit off the coast New Britain region of Papua New Guinea earlier today. (Daily Star)

This is a breaking story and will be updated shortly

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NY Man Planned to Blow Himself Up at Washington Mall

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Police and FBI agents searched a Hudson Valley home Wednesday after learning about a man who was allegedly building a bomb in order to blow himself up in Washington D.C., two law enforcement officials told News 4 New York.

Investigators said they were concerned the man, identified as Paul Rosenfeld, at the home on Slocum Avenue in Orangetown was in the process of acquiring bomb parts.

Officials tell News 4 Rosenfeld had no criminal history but had told a reporter in Pennsylvania he planned to blow himself up on the Washington Mall around Election Day because he was angry about the country’s direction. 

He had no plans to hurt anyone else, officials said. He is believed to be a lone actor not affiliated with any international terror group or ideology. 

Full Article at https://nts24.co.uk/2A2oWjM 

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Trump ‘demanding’ answers from Saudis about missing writer

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday the U.S. is “demanding” answers from Saudi Arabia about the disappearance of a well-known Saudi writer and government critic Turkish authorities say was slain inside his country’s diplomatic mission in Istanbul.

Trump said he plans to invite to the White House the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi, a writer for The Washington Post who has not been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2 to get paperwork for his marriage.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S. August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Members of Congress have grown increasingly insistent that the administration find out what happened to Khashoggi. The Saudi government has become a closer ally under Trump and some lawmakers warn that relations could be jeopardized if it turns out the kingdom was involved in his disappearance.

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that he has a call in to the fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who had been waiting outside the consulate when Khashoggi went inside and has appealed to the president and first lady Melania Trump for help.

Trump said nobody knows exactly what happened and expressed hope that Khashoggi is not dead. He also said he had spoken with the Saudis about what he called a “bad situation,” but he did not disclose details of his conversations.

Saudi Arabia denies involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi, a former insider in Saudi government circles who has been living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for the past year after fleeing a crackdown on intellectuals and activists in the country.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said White House national security adviser John Bolton and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner spoke on Tuesday to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Khashoggi. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo then had a follow-up call with the crown prince to reiterate the U.S. request for information.

While angry members of Congress likely won’t cause the administration to turn away from Prince Mohammed and end decades of close security ties with Saudi Arabia, they could throw a wrench into arms sales that require their approval and demand the U.S. scale back support for the Saudi military campaign against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “there will definitely be consequences” if it turns out the Saudis were involved in Khashoggi disappearance. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it would be “devastating” to the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, said if Saudi Arabia had lured a U.S. resident into a consulate and killed him, “it’s time for the United States to rethink our military, political and economic relationship with Saudi Arabia.” But he said it was unclear whether the Trump administration was willing to “go beyond words.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a longtime critic of the Saudi government, said he’ll try to force a vote in the Senate this week blocking U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He told local radio in his home state Tuesday that he wants to end the arms shipments if there’s “any indication” the Saudis are “implicated in killing this journalist that was critical of them.”

Trump’s comments Wednesday were the toughest yet from his administration on the Khashoggi case. Officials have expressed concern but refused even to entertain questions about what the consequences would be if Turkish allegations turn out to be true. Pompeo has called on the Saudi government to conduct a thorough investigation and to be transparent about its results.

The reaction from European governments has also been cautious. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told his Saudi counterpart that if media reports about Khashoggi were correct, it “would be extremely concerning and the U.K. will treat the incident very seriously,” according to the Foreign Office.

The Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, has described the allegations as “malicious leaks and grim rumors” and said the kingdom is “gravely concerned” about Khashoggi. Saudi officials maintain he left the consulate shortly after entering, although it has failed to provide evidence.

Washington Post CEO and publisher Fred Ryan said reports suggested the journalist was victim of “state-sponsored, cold-blooded murder.” He demanded answers in a statement Tuesday, saying “Silence, denials and delays are not acceptable.”

Analysts said there were reasons for skepticism about the Turkish account. Ties between Ankara and Riyadh are at a low point over Turkey’s support for Qatar in that country’s yearlong dispute with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations. Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim power, is also annoyed by Ankara’s rapprochement with the kingdom’s Shiite archrival, Iran.

Saudi authorities’ failure to provide video footage of Khashoggi’s movements at the consulate to rebut the Turkish allegations have only deepened suspicions.

The Trump administration, from the president on down, is heavily invested in the Saudi relationship. That’s unlikely to change, said Robin Wright, a scholar at the Wilson Center think tank and close friend of the missing writer. The administration’s Middle East agenda heavily depends on the Saudis, including efforts to counter Iranian influence in the region, fight extremism and build support for an expected plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Indication of those stakes came within four months of Trump taking office, when Saudi Arabia became his first destination on a presidential trip and he announced $110 billion in proposed arms sales.

Prince Mohammed has introduced some economic and social reforms, allowing women to drive and opening movie theaters in the deeply conservative Muslim nation. The flip side, however, is that he’s also squelched dissent and imprisoned activists. He has championed the three-year military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen that has pushed that nation toward famine and caused many civilian deaths.

Still, the Trump administration last month stood behind its support for that campaign with weapons, logistics and intelligence, certifying that the Saudis were taken adequate steps to prevent civilian despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Karen Elliott House, a veteran writer on Saudi affairs and chair of the board of trustees at RAND Corp., said U.S. support for the Yemen war is likely to be the focus of congressional criticism but won’t endanger a relationship that has endured for decades, underpinned by shared strategic interests. Even under the Obama administration, which had difficult relations with Riyadh compared with Trump, there were some $65 billion in completed arms sales.

“The U.S.-Saudi relationship is certainly not about shared moral values,” House said. “It’s about shared security interests.”

___

Associated Press writers Susannah George, Matthew Lee and Deb Riechmann and video journalist Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.

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