NEW YORK – Reducing the large amount of Holocaust denial and distortion online requires effective action on the part of social media platforms, according to a first-of-its-kind report released today by UNESCO and the UN Department for Global Communications, in partnership with the World Jewish Congress.
The study, titled “History Under Attack: Holocaust Denial and Distortion on Social Media,” specifically investigates platforms that include Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, Twitter and TikTok and provides recommendations of academic resources and improved content moderation standards for governments, online platforms, educators and researchers to counter denial and distortion, prevent antisemitism and uphold human rights.
“As Holocaust deniers become more sophisticated, so must those who are working to fight this evil,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder of the data-driven report. “WJC looks forward to continuing to support the United Nations and UNESCO in their international efforts on Holocaust education and fighting antisemitism.”
Platforms that moderate content and provide reliable information about the subject matter have greater impact in addressing the issue, the study showed.
About half of Holocaust-related content on Telegram, which is not moderated, either denied or distorted its history, according to the experts’ wide-ranging review. For Holocaust-related posts on moderated platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, 10 percent and 15 percent, respectively, included denial or distortion.
For the report, nearly 4,000 pieces of content related to the Holocaust, including posts and memes glorifying the atrocities of the Nazis and making light of their destruction of the Jewish communities of Europe during World War II, were collected in June and July 2021 from five major online platforms. The content was then manually analyzed by experts from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford in English, French, German and Spanish.
“Understanding the history of the Holocaust is crucial to safeguarding our future,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote in the report’s foreword. “If we fail to identify and confront the lies and inhumanity that fueled past atrocities, we are ill-prepared to prevent them in the future.”
The UN chief added, “This report is an urgent wake-up call that must jolt us into action – to pursue truth, remembrance and education, and together build a world of peace, dignity and justice for all.”
Echoing those remarks, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said, “The report reveals that there are still social networks where Holocaust denial and distortion spread without moderation, and that this content is used to fuel hatred. We can fight against these phenomena by taking action on content and educating users.”
She added, “But we cannot only rely on the voluntary participation of platforms: We also need common principles and guidelines.”
WJC has forged partnerships with Facebook and TikTok; both platforms have launched features encouraging users who search for keywords associated with the Holocaust to learn more by visiting the WJC and UNESCO site AboutHolocaust.org, developed to showcase basic facts about the destruction of European Jewry by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II.
The site, now available in 19 languages, has about 15,000 daily users. Total users number more than 1 million.
“WJC will continue to pursue additional partnerships with social media companies to strengthen the global effort against online antisemitism,” said Yfat Barak-Cheney, WJC director for International Affairs and Human Rights, who provided feedback for the report along with Leon Saltiel, WJC representative at the United Nations office in Geneva and UNESCO and WJC coordinator on Countering Antisemitism.
To view the report, please go here.
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