Olympic opening ceremony director fired for Holocaust joke

The Tokyo Olympic organizing committee fired the director of the opening ceremony on Thursday because of a Holocaust joke he made during a comedy show in 1998.

Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said a day ahead of the opening ceremony that director Kentaro Kobayashi has been dismissed. He was accused of using a joke about the Holocaust in his comedy act, including the phrase “Let’s play Holocaust.”

“We found out that Mr. Kobayashi, in his own performance, has used a phrase ridiculing a historical tragedy,” Hashimoto said. “We deeply apologize for causing such a development the day before the opening ceremony and for causing troubles and concerns to many involved parties as well as the people in Tokyo and the rest of the country.”

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Facebook bans Holocaust denial content

Facebook has announced it will remove all content on its platform that “denies or distorts the Holocaust.” The company says this expansion of its hate speech policies is a response to what it calls “the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people.” Facebook has previously faced strong criticism for letting Holocaust denial content spread freely on its platform.

In addition to removing content that denies or distorts the Holocaust, the company says that, starting later this year, it will direct anyone searching on Facebook for terms related to this topic to “credible information” supplied by third-party sources.

“Enforcement of these policies cannot happen overnight. There is a range of content that can violate these policies, and it will take some time to train our reviewers and systems on enforcement,” said Facebook’s VP of content policy, Monika Bickert, in a blog post.

Earlier this year, Facebook said it would ban anti-Semitic stereotypes that depicts Jewish people as “running the world or its major institutions.” But a report a week later by a UK counter-extremism group, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), found that the company’s algorithm “actively promotes” Holocaust denial content.

Removing content that denies or distorts the Holocaust may seem like an obvious decision for a company that is frequently accused of enabling hate speech. But in the past, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, has presented the company’s tolerance of Holocaust denial as an example of its commitment to principles of free speech.

In an interview with Recode in 2018, Zuckerberg said that Facebook wouldn’t remove content from Holocaust deniers because he believed these individuals weren’t “intentionally getting it [the Holocaust] wrong.”

“It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” said Zuckerberg. “I just think, as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly. I’m sure you do. I’m sure a lot of leaders and public figures we respect do too, and 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.’” (Zuckerberg later added: “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.”)

In a Facebook post today, Zuckerberg said his thinking on the matter had “evolved,” in part in response to a climate of “rising anti-Semitism.”

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