Facebook is many different things to many different people, but surely a social networking should be just that, social. Sure, there will always the odd group with a less than pleasant agenda, although usually these take the humour route rather than being downright nasty. So while an anti-Microsoft group might not be all hugs and flowers in intent, it is not in the same league as one proclaiming that members should 'Turn Gypsies into Fuel' for example.

The renowned Paris-based anti-nazi organisation, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, recently had cause to write an official complaint to Facebook under the title of "Do Not Serve as a Platform for Hate." On the 12th November, Dr Shimon Samuels who is the centre's Director for International Relations, sent a letter to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which expressed unsurprising outrage at the fact that Facebook was hosting no less than seven very unsocial groups indeed. The seven were fascist groups based in Italy with names such as the aforementioned fuel example as well as 'Useful work for gypsies: testers of gas chambers' and 'Let's burn them all.'

Samuels took the initiative, along with several members of the European Parliament, to remind Zuckerberg how offensive this was on the "70th anniversary of 'Kristallnacht', the prelude to the Holocaust" that "we find your networking service abused for the propagation of attacks on Roma."

Suggesting that Facebook "install appropriate filters to exclude such unwelcome guests" Samuels offered the help of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre to combat the problem, making use of its proven system for monitoring hate and violence online.

Facebook replied within 24 hours, and confirmed that "After reviewing the reported abuse, we have removed all offending content based on our Terms of Use."

Having a gypsy (Irish Romany) bloodline myself, you might expect that I would applaud such a decision. Yet I remain in two minds. Part of me says that scum like this have no place on Facebook and the members involved should be banned, part of me says that censorship is a bad thing. I am always reminded of Voltaire who said "I may not agree with what you say, but to your death I will defend your right to say it" and Joe Moore with "The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know."

Of course, an intelligent debate is not always possible in circumstances where one side is full of hate. Which is why, here at DaniWeb, we have a 'keep it pleasant' rule that excludes such postings from our community. But the problem with a general Facebook ban is that they will surely be back, unless and until Facebook applies some kind of filtering system to prevent hate groups from forming. Something I think is doubtful, given the whole free speech thing. Anyway, if not on Facebook then elsewhere online.

I am now reminded of two more quotes, this time from Martin Luther King Jr: "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity" and "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

What do you think is the answer to these problems?

About the Author

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

I agree that it is better that these groups and organisations are kept in the light where we can at least identify them. However any group who then is identifiable must then be willing to accept the legal (and moral) consequences. It is illegal in most European countries to support, join or identify with fascist organisations which preach hate. Though many groups and political parties sail as close to the wind as they can, often they have popular support, they will often fail at the polls as the silent majority can then speak out. Both fascism and stalinist/maoist regimes have had there say in the 20th century and have proved themselves morally and legally bankrupt. I for one will not enter into any intellectual debate with such people. As Woody Allan once said "A biting satirical piece in the New York Times is one thing, but in the case of Nazis a brick and baseball bat gets the point across better!"